Shanhaiguan Great Wall
Shanhaiguan Great Wall, also known as Shanhaiguan Pass or Shanhai Pass, is reputed as the “First Pass under Heaven”, because it is the first pass along the Great Wall of China in the east, also because it stood in a strategic location easy to hold but hard to attack and protecting the central plain from the invasion of northern nomadic tribes in ancient times. Shanhaiguan of China is located 9 miles (15 km) northeast of Qinhuangdao City in Hebei Province and 190 miles (305 km) away from Beijing.
A Solid Military Defense in the Ming Dynasty
Shanhai Pass was a fortress built in the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) to defend against the intrusion of the Mongolian tribes. It is roughly square with a total length of 4.5 miles (7,138 meters), consisting of a 3-mile (4.8-kilometer) long wall and a barbican. The wall of the pass is about 46 feet (14 meters) in height and 23 feet (7 meters) in width. There are four gates at each side. Originally, four separate barbicans were built in front of the gates, forming another defensive screen. However, only the one on the east side remains till today.
The eastern wall was the major defense line of the pass. The well-known 'First Pass under Heaven' (Zhendong Tower) is located at this side. It has 68 small windows on the east, north and south sides for soldiers to shoot arrows from. The tower is 45 feet (13.7 meters) high with two floors. There is a big board hanging under the eaves with five huge Chinese characters 'Tian Xia Di Yi Guan' (the First Pass under Heaven) inscribed in the Ming Dynasty. The four corners of the eaves are decorated with vivid sculptures of beasts. Standing on the tower, you get the best view of the whole site. Besides this arrow tower, there were another four towers arranged along the east side, namely Weiyuan Hall (only ruins left), Linlu Tower, Muying Tower, and Jingbian Tower. In the Ming Dynasty, the five towers were considered as ‘Five Tigers’ defending the frontier.
After the establishment of the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911), the military function of Shanhai Pass began to fade. Since then, it has become a vital transportation hub and attractive tourist destination.
An Old Cultural Town inside the Pass
Getting down from the pass, the ancient town inside will immerse you in its historical atmosphere. With many well-preserved old buildings, it is a great place to enjoy the ancient architectural style. Old residences and traditional workshops are dotted along the quaint chessboard-like streets. The most representative is the Wang's Compound to the west of the Zhendong Tower, a typical courtyard of the ancient architectural style.
Since the Ming and Qing dynasties, a number of temples were constructed inside the pass. Most of them can still be seen today.
The old-style construction is to the south of the Zhendong Tower. Exhibitions in the museum introduce the history, structure, and military function of the Great Wall with a large collection of its construction material, firearms, and other precious items.
|Old Town||Free Entrance|
|First Pass under Heaven||May to October: CNY 40 |
November to Next April: CNY 15
|Great Wall Museum||Free Entrance |
English Guide: CNY 100
Combo Ticket with Nearby Attractions
Many famous sites are located near the Pass, such as Laolongtou – the easternmost point of the Great Wall, and Meng Jiangnu Temple – commemorating a sad story related to the construction of this great man-made wonder. You can go visiting them when you finish your trip to the pass. There are combo tickets available for these attractions.
|Meng Jiangnu Temple, the First Pass under Heaven||CNY 90|
|Laolongtou, the First Pass under Heaven||CNY 120|
|Meng Jiangnu Temple, Laolongtou, the First Pass under Heaven||CNY 200|
|Old Town and First Pass under Heaven||May to October: 7:00 – 18:00 |
November to Next April: 7:30 – 17:00
|Great Wall Museum||8:00 – 17:00|
When is the Best Time for a Visit?
You can go for a visit all year round. The four seasons endow the site with different charms. The weather is very comfortable in spring and autumn (April, May, September and October). In summer (July and August), it is a perfect summer resort for you to admire the grand Great Wall and the vast sea. Once the snow comes, it is covered in a white mask, infusing a bit of solemnity to the old construction. To have a better tour experience, you should try to avoid the peak times like May Day holiday (May 1 to May 3) and National Day holiday (October 1 to October 7).
How to get there from downtown Beijing
Take high speed trains from Beijing Railway Station or Beijing South Railway Station to Shanhaiguan Railway Station, and then walk north to the south gate of the scenic area.
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How to get there from Qinhuangdao City
Take a train from Qinhuangdao Railway Station to Shanhaiguan Railway Station, and then walk north about 10 minutes to the south gate.
Public bus no. 25 or no. 33 in Qinhuangdao can also take you there.
Where to Eat
There are many stores and workshops inside, selling delicious local snacks. The prices there are quite fair. You can also buy some distinctive local handicrafts there.
Shanhaiguan Sightseeing List:
Related Reading: Legend of Shanhaiguan Pass, The War of Shanhaiguan Pass
Related Tour: Laolongtou-Shanhaiguan-Jiaoshan Hiking
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