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Jiayuguan Great Wall

Jiayuguan is a pass standing at the western end of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall. Different from the well-known sections built with stones or bricks, Jiayuguan Great Wall was built with rammed earth, making yellow its dominant hue and helping the pass blend harmoniously with the surrounding desert. The city where the pass is located is named after the pass, also called Jiayuguan, sitting in China’s northwest Gansu Province.
 
Jiayuguan Pass
Jiayuguan Pass in Gansu   Photos
Jiayuguan Great Wall Map
Jiayuguan Great Wall Map (Click to enlarge)

 Basic Facts of Jiayuguan

 Jiayu Pass was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644)  under the supervision of Feng Sheng, a founding general of the Ming Dynasty. When first completed, there were only ramparts surrounding the barracks. After 168 years of enhancements, the pass assumed its present appearance.

 Covering an area of 40,100 square yards (33,529 square meters), Jiayuguan Pass of Great Wall has a complex and integrated defensive system: an inner city, the central area with many buildings, an outer city, and finally a moat. You can also find common military facilities such as arrow towers, turrets, and cannons along the wall.

 Jiayu Pass was also a vital traffic fort along the Silk Road, the world's oldest trading route, connecting China, Central Asia and Europe.

 Inner City

Encompassing an area of six acres (25,000 square meters), the inner city is enclosed by a city wall which runs for 700 yards (640 meters) and reaches a height of 36 feet (11 meters). It has two gates in the east and west respectively, known as the Guanghua and Rouyuan. Each gate is protected by a smaller guard tower and a barbican in front, forming another defensive screen for the inner city.

Jiayuguan Great Wall
Inner City
Jiayuguan Pass in Gansu
Outer City

 Outer City

Outside the inner city, there is another barrier forming the first defensive line of the pass – the outer city. As the major defensive point, the west wall of the outer city was built up with bricks, making it very solid. There is a three-story tower with a plaque that reads 'Tian Xia Di Yi Xiong Guan' (the First and Greatest Pass under Heaven) to state the military importance and strength of Jiayu Pass.

Along with the vast Gobi desert and solid military constructions, the old buildings of the pass are also worth taking in:

 Youji General's Office – It was the location in the inner city where the generals guarding Jiayu Pass dealt with military affairs. The meeting hall in the front yard reproduces the scene of generals planning military strategy, while you can have a rough idea of the living situation of the generals' families in the back yard.

 Wenchang Hall – It is a two-story pavilion in front of the inner city. It follows the same design style as the gate towers and is decorated with lattice doors and windows. The pavilion was once a great meeting place for literati to read, paint and compose poetry until the late Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). After that, it became the work place of civil officials.

 Temple of Guan Yu – Outside the east barbican, it is a place where people pay homage to Guan Yu, an invincible general of the Kingdom of Shu (221 – 263).

 Opera Tower – It is located near the east barbican outside the inner city. In old times, soldiers, local residents and traveling merchants often relaxed by watching operas there. Chinese cultural symbols such as red pillars, upswept cornices, exquisitely carved beams, and murals of the Eight Immortals can be found there.

 Jiayuguan Great Wall Museum – It is at the east gate of the scenic area and looks like a giant white beacon tower. Here, you can better understand the architectural history of this huge defense line and have a look at the old weapons and paintings of the Great Wall.

Jiayuguan Guanyu Temple
Temple of Guanyu
Jiayuguan Great Wall Museum
Great Wall Museum

 Travel Tips

 It takes about two hours to finish the whole trip. Visitors who prefer a less strenuous experience can pay CNY 10 to rent a bike at the gate of the scenic area.

 The ramparts and gate towers are the best viewing points to admire the surrounding scenes. Standing on the tower, it feels like you are alone in the vast desert with snow-capped Qilian Mountain in the distance. It's a perfect frontier experience.

 The best time to take pictures is at sunset. The old pass looks magnificent with the scarlet sunlight slanting across the land.

 You can also get a bird-eye view of the pass by paraglider. Each glider can only take one person at a time. The price is CNY 300/per person.

Admission Fee May to October: CNY 122
November to April: CNY 102
Sightseeing car inside the pass CNY 10
Opening Hours May to October: 8:30 – 20:00
November to April: 8:30 – 18:00
Recommended Time to Visit May to October

 The ticket also includes the entrances to the First Fire Tower - the westernmost pier of the Great Wall, five miles (eight kilometers) south of Jiayu Pass, and the Overhanging Great Wall – a section built on steep and bare mountain, five miles (eight kilometers) north of the pass. There is no shuttle bus among the three spots. You are advised to charter a minibus to travel between them.

Jiayuguan Pass
Jiayuguan Pass of Great Wall

 How to Get to the Pass from Jiayuguan City

The pass is four miles (six kilometers) west of the city proper. It won't take much time to get there from the city.

 By bus

Take bus no.4 or no.6 to the terminal station, and walk to the ticket office. The two bus lines both operate from 7:00 to 20:00 and costs CNY 1.

 By minibus

If you want to visit the First Fire Tower and the Overhanging Great Wall all together, it is recommended to charter a minibus from the city. It would cost CNY 150~180/per bus.

 Further Reading: Legends of Jiayuguan Pass