Shanhaiguan Great Wall

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.

Shanhaiguan Great Wall
The Solid Defensive Line
Map of Shanhaiguan Great Wall
Map of Shanhaiguan Great Wall

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.

First Pass under Heaven
First Pass under Heaven
First Pass under Heaven
 The Grand First Pass

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.

Admission Fee

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

(Reference Only)

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

Opening Hours

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?

Shanhaiguan Pass of Great Wall

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.
 Click to check real-time China Train Schedule

How to get there from Qinhuangdao City

 By Train
Take a train from Qinhuangdao Railway Station to Shanhaiguan Railway Station, and then walk north about 10 minutes to the south gate.

 By Bus
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.

 Travel Reviews    Photo Album 
- Last updated on Feb. 29, 2024 by Brenda Lian -
Questions & Answers on Shanhaiguan
Asked by Kambalah from PHILIPPINES | Jun. 25, 2019 13:36Reply
Hi, can we go there (shanhaiguan) in the morning then come back at late afternoon?
Answers (1)
Answered by Josiah from CANADA | Jun. 26, 2019 20:19

Yes, generally speaking, the time is enough.
Asked by Fab from AUSTRALIA | Nov. 13, 2018 06:44Reply
How to go to the top of the Shanhaiguan wall from the ground
How easy is it for an older person with weak legs to go to the top of the wall and walk along the wall ?
Is there a lift/elevator or the only way is to climb the steps from the ground at the entrance to reach to top
(average 12 m height) ?
Are there any wheelchairs or other equipment/vehicles for hire, to be used on top of the great wall ?
Answers (1)
Answered by Julia from NETHERLANDS | Nov. 13, 2018 17:31

It seems the only way is to climb the steps and I didn't find any wheelchairs access.
Asked by zam from MALAYSIA | Oct. 27, 2018 02:30Reply
Hi may i ask if i travel from Malaysia should i land at beijing airport if i want go to Shanhaiguan
Answers (1)
Answered by Sam from AUSTRALIA | Oct. 28, 2018 20:21

Yes, it's the closest airport to Shanhai Pass. However, after arrival, you need to take shuttle bus line 3 to Beijing Railway Station to take a high speed train to Shanhaiguan Station. The train operates from 6:39 to 18:51 and it takes about 3 hours to get there.
Asked by M from CHINA | Sep. 23, 2018 23:29Reply
Hi, is there a decent coffee place in Shanhaiguan Great Wall? :)
Thank you
Answers (1)
Answered by Banner from UNITED KINGDOM | Sep. 24, 2018 19:22

I haven't found any coffee bars nearby.
Ask a Question
Question Summary (100 characters)
Details (optional) (2,000 characters)