Jiayuguan Fort

Jiayuguan Fort

Jiayuguan Fort or Jiayuguan Pass is located 6 km southwest of Jiayuguan city. Its name is from the location in the Valley of Jiayu. It was initially built in 1373 during Ming Dynasty and enjoys a history of over 600 years. Jiayuguan Pass is the western end of Ming Great Wall as well as the most magnificent and best-preserved pass among over 1000 passes along the Great Wall of Ming Dynasty. It is sandwiched between the two high mountains, which achieved its reputation as "the Impregnable Pass under Heaven" and it took 168 years to build this strategic outpost.
Jiayuguan Fort was built at the narrowest point of Hexi Corridor in Gansu Province. It is not only of great strategic importance but also a must pass to the west along the ancient Silk Road. Jiayuguan is a multi-tier defensive works, made up of Neicheng-the inner city, Wengcheng-the barbican entrance to the wall, Luocheng-the outer round defensive wall, Waicheng-the outer city and the moat. Its western outer defensive wall extends southward to the bank of Taolai River at the foot of Qilian Mountain and its northern end links with a hidden wall going halfway up to Heishan Mountain. Thus a complete military defensive system was formed and seemingly if one man guards the pass, no one can pass.
The inner city, standing right at the center of the Pass, covers an area of 25, 600 square meters and the total length of it is 640m. It takes 6-meter high loess as its base with 3-meter high adobe wall on it. On the top of the wall, 1. 7-meter high brick buttress was aligned with crenels and watch holes. On the western wall between the crenels there are notches for lamps. Beneath the notches are slanting openings for shooting.
The inner city has four turrets (corner tower) and a gate tower on the middle of each south and north walls. Wengcheng-the barbican entrance protected the eastern gate Guanghuamen and western gate Rouyuanmen of the inner city. The name of Rouyuan represented the policy of peaceful coexistence with the minorities of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644AD). "Weng "means jar in English so it is said that once the enemy enters "Wengcheng", he will find himself like a turtle in a jar waiting to be caught.
Continuing west, we will face the massive outer defensive wall-Luocheng. For Luocheng is the main defensive wall, it is as over'10m as high and its base was built 2. 5m thick.
In the middle of the wall, there is a pass through Jiayuguan Gate. On the pass are three Chinese characters inscribed by Emperor Qianlong of Qing Dynasty (1636-1911AD). Less than 2 meters out of Jiayuguan Gate is the moat, which was the defending front of the whole system.
Entering from the east, we will firstly come to the Wenchangge Pavilion, which was restored, in the late Qing Dynasty. It was also a place where the ancient intellectuals were said to write poems sighing for their being exiled to this barbarian border area.
There is a legend associated with the wall. When Jiayuguan Pass was going to be built, the project supervisor asked the engineer Yi Kaizhan to exactly work out how many bricks would be used in the construction. The engineer gave him a specific number. The official in charge of this project said if one brick was left, the death penalty would await the engineer. When the project was finished, the engineer found that there was unfortunately one brick left over. Facing the evidence of failure, the engineer cleverly declared that this brick was specially left to balance the fort thus he saved his own life. The brick was therefore called "Dingchengzhuan" namely "the brick to balance the fort", which is now sitting on the side of Huijimen.