Ningwu Pass (Ningwuguan)

Shanxi Ningwuguan Pass
Ningwu Pass in Shanxi

 Shanxi Great Wall Photos

Concerned about the ever-present threats of the northern Mongolian tribes, the emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) determined to strengthen the northern borders by extending the Great Wall. In central Shanxi Province, which used to be the northern border in the Ming Dynasty, you can find three important passes known as the Three Outer Passes of the Great Wall. The grand Yanmenguan Pass stands in the east, and the Pianguan Pass lies in the west. Sitting in the central area and acting as the garrison headquarters is the Ningwuguan Pass. It is sandwiched by the Huagai Mountain in the north and the Phoenix Mountain and the rippling Huihe River in the south.

History of Ningwu Pass

 It was first constructed in 1450 during the Ming Dynasty, and was renovated and enlarged many times. In a rectangular shape, it originally had three gates in total: the East Gate, the South Gate, and the West Gate.

 In 1479, the North Gate was opened. Many emplacements and watch towers were also built along the wall of the pass.

 After the enlargement in 1498, the pass had a girth of 2.2 miles (3.5 kilometers) and its wall was about 38 feet (11.5 meters) high.

 In 1606, the rammed earth wall was wrapped by bricks, making it more solid and sound. The East Gate Tower and West Gate Tower were also constructed. At the top of the Huagai Mountain was erected a magnificent three-storey Fire Tower. Additionally, the 12 miles (20 kilometers) long Great Wall was built to the north of the pass.

 In 1644, a fierce battle took place at Ningwu Pass. The peasant rebels led by Li Zicheng fought against the guarding soldiers led by General Zhou Yuji. The fight lasted seven days and the General Zhou Yuji was defeated and killed. The rebels marched to Beijing, the capital city. Then, they overthrew the Emperor, putting an end to the Ming Dynasty. Nowadays, you can see the Tomb of General Zhouyuji stands quietly to the east of the Huihe River.

 As time passed, the Ningwuguan Pass has fallen into disrepair. Today, you can see some relics of the rammed earth wall. Fortunately, the Drum Tower, the representative building, is well-preserved.

Drum Tower- Landmark at Ningwuguan

The three-storey Drum Tower stands on Renmin Avenue at the Ningwu County. It is in a square shape, with a height of 98 feet (30 meters). The cross-shaped pedestal is made of bricks and stones. There are many cultural relics on show, such as weapons and articles for daily use from ancient times.

Yangfangkou Fort- Largest Fort at Ningwuguan

There are many forts along the Great Wall at Ningwuguan, and Yangfangkou Fort is the largest one among them. It was constructed in 1539, and enlarged in 1576, with a length of 0.6 mile (1 kilometer). It lies between Changfang Mountain and Huihe River, about 8 miles (18 kilometers) to the north of the Ningwu County. It was historically called Jiuniukou Fort, meaning Nine Cows Fort. There was a nine-span stone bridge, and it was connected with the Great Wall to its two sides. Each span is supported by a cow-shaped iron pedestal. Later, the pedestals were washed away, and the bridge collapsed. Thereafter, the fort was renamed as "Yangfangkou Fort", which means a fort defended by the Yang Family. It was renamed so because the Generals of the Yang Family guarded there.

The Yangfangkou Fort served as an important spot for transportation in the ancient times. Today, it is a transport hub between Taiyuan and Datong. The gate of the fort still remains. Also, you can see the dilapidated Great Wall and three well-preserved watchtowers there.

Apart from these wonders of human construction, you can enjoy the intoxicating natural landscapes near the pass. The Guanceng Mountain, the main peak of the Luya Mountain, is home to the only virgin forest along the Great Wall of China. You can also see many beautiful lakes there.

How to Get to Ningwuguan Pass

It is located in Ningwu County, Xinzhou of Shanxi Province. You may take a train to Ningwu Railway Station from Taiyuan or Datong. Then, walk south for about 0.9 mile (1.5 kilometers) to the Drum Tower. To visit the Yangfangkou Fort, you are advised to charter a car because the local public transportation is not very convenient.

- Last updated on Apr. 19, 2021 -
Questions & Answers on Ningwu Pass
Asked by Mr.Awais from PAKISTAN | Jun. 22, 2009 01:38Reply
Thank you for the detailed introduction. I am going to visit it in this summer vacation with a few of friends. What I wonder is that is there any other scenic sights around this scenic area so we can drop around? Thanks.
Answers (1)
Answered by Ms.Shirly from CHINA | Jun. 22, 2009 04:20

Besides Ningwu Pass, you can visit Baiyun (White Cloud) Temple, Confucious Temple in Daixian County and Yanmenguan Pass. Around Ningwu Pass, there are many historical sites worthy a visit!
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