Jilu Fortress

The Jilu Fortress is located in the northwestern Dengkou County of Bayannur in Inner Mongolia. It was built in 122BC during the Han Dynasty (202BC-220AD) to prevent the invasion of northern Huns. Together with the beacon towers, stone walls, and stone terraces close by, the fortress constituted an important military stronghold in ancient times. The fortress is one of the earliest barbicans in China.

The fortress stands on a 62 feet (19 meters) high mountain slope, making it very difficult to reach and easy to defend. It was built of gneiss and pebbles, and the joints filled with clay. The site is a square shape, with a side length of 75 yards (68.5 meters). The ruins of the wall are 23 feet (7 meters) to 26 feet (8 meters) high. At the northwestern gap, it is only 6.6 feet (2 meters) high. The present upper part of the wall is about 4 yards (3.7 meters) wide, and the lower part is 5.8 yards (5.3 meters) to 6 yards (5.5 meters) wide. The outer surface of the wall is quite neat. The four corners of the fortress jut out for about 2.2 yards (2 meters) to watch and defend against enemies. There is only one gate: South Gate. Outside the gate lies a small barbican with an entrance in the east.

Owing to flash flooding, wind erosion, and human destruction, the houses inside the fortress are severely damaged, only to leave some debris of bricks and tiles. Fortunately, the fortress is well-preserved, and has never been developed for sightseeing purposes. You can ascend the fortress along the stone steps to the east of the southern wall and at the northwestern corner. Standing on the wall, you will have a bird's-eye view of the fortress, deep valleys in the east, and rolling mountains in the north. Also, you will find many sites of beacon towers around the fortress, which were used to convey military information in the past. Many cultural relics were excavated there, including cord-marked bricks and tiles, pieces of gray pottery, arrows, and a bronze crossbow.

There is an interesting story about the fortress. In 51BC, Huhanye Chanyu, supreme ruler of Huns, paid his first visit to Chang'an, the capital city of Han Dynasty. Emperor Xuan of Han showed warm hospitality to him, and dispatch troops to escort him home. He passed by Jilu Fortress and went back home. Thereafter, the northern Huns and southern Han people lived in peace and harmony for years. In 33BC, Huhanye Chanyu visited the Han Dynasty again. Emperor Yuan betrothed Wang Zhaojun, one of the Four Beauties in ancient China, to him. Huhanye Chanyu took Wang Zhaojun home via Jilu Fortress again. Years later, the couple dwelled in the fortress for as long as eight years to shun the disputes within the Chanyu Family.

How to Get to Jilu Fortress from Dengkou County

It is about 37 miles (60 kilometers) from Dengkou County, and there is no public transportation to the site. You may charter a car. The fare may be around CNY 300 for a round trip.
- Last updated on Mar. 22, 2019 -
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