Gaoque Fortress

In 306BC, King Wuling of Zhao State defeated the northern Linhu and Loufan tribes. Thereafter, he ordered that the Great Wall should be built to consolidate the northern border. The defense line runs from Dai (today's Yuxian County of Hebei Province), and ends at Gaoque Fortress at the southern foot of Langshan Mountain.

As the western end of the Great Wall of Zhao State, the fortress occupied an important position. It stands at the junction of the northern Dabatu Valley and the western Chagan Valley. The fortress is surrounded by mountain ridges on the western, northern, and eastern sides, while to the south stretches the vast Hetao Plain. Without the fortress, the northern Huns on horseback could easily go southward to the plain, and then invade Chang'an, capital city of Han Dynasty (202 BC- 220 AD), which is about 621 miles (1,000 kilometers) away. Thus, the Gaoque Fortress protected a vital passage in ancient times. The Huns attempted to invade Han Dynasty  territory, but were blocked by the fortress.

"Gaoque" literally means high gate towers in English. It is inferred that its name comes from the two dark red peaks on either side of the Chagan Valley, which resemble two gate towers when seen from afar.

The fortress is composed of two small cities. The square Northern City has a side length of 44 yards (40 meters). The wall ranges from 13 feet (4 meters) to 20 feet (6 meters) high. The top is 4.4 yards (4 meters) thick, and the bottom is 6.6 yards (6 meters) thick. The outside of the wall is made from larger boulders, and the inside filled with small rocks and sand. You can ascend to the city along stone steps at the northeast corner. In the middle of the southern wall is the entrance. The rectangular Southern City is 70 yards (64 meters) long and 52 yards (48 meters) wide. It is here that cultural relics such as iron axes, arrows, and armor were unearthed. The entrance lies to the east of the southern wall. The wall is about 2.2 yards (2 meters) thinner and 6.6 feet (2 meters) shorter than the Northern City.

The different architectural styles indicate that the two cities were from different historical periods. It is thought that the Northern City was built by King Wuling of Zhao during the Warring States Period, while the Southern City was built during the Han Dynasty. Ruins of houses have been found in both cities. Nowadays, the fortress has partly fallen into disrepair, but most parts are well-preserved.

On the gentle slope outside the fortress, a stone wall runs from northeast to southwest. The wall is about 328 yards (300 meters) long, and is made of stone slabs. The wall is connected with a square stone building over the hill to the west of the fortress. The building is believed to be the site of a beacon tower. After thousands of years of natural erosion, most parts of the wall have collapsed. But the outline can still be made out.

Ascending the fortress, you will have a panoramic view. You can see the nearby valleys, mountain ridges, and the Great Wall of the Zhao State coming from afar. It gives you a strong feeling of the vicissitudes of history.

How to Get to Gaoque Fortress

It is located in Huhewenduer Town, Urat Rear Banner, Bayannur, Inner Mongolia. No public transportation is available. You may charter a car to the site from Urat Rear Banner. The fare is around CNY 300 for a round trip.
- Last updated on Apr. 15, 2019 -
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