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Known as "the First and Greatest Pass under Heaven" and one of the main passes of the Great Wall along with Juyongguan Pass and Shanhaiguan Pass, Jiayuguan Pass is the first pass at the most western end of the Great Wall of China and wasa vital communications hub along the ancient Silk Road.With Jiuquan to the east, Yumen to the west, the Black Mountain to the north and the Qilian Mountains to the south, itis the best preserved and most magnificent military memorial among the passes of the Great Wall.
Perched at the narrowest point of the western part of Hexi Corridor(a part of the Northern Silk Road running north-west from the Yellow River bank;it used to bean important route from North China to the Tarim Basin and Central Asia for merchants), Jiayuguan Pass was a key passageway of the ancient Silk Road, which commanded fascinating views of the boundless Gobi Desert and the snowcapped Qilian Mountains.
Covering an area of 34 square kilometers (8 acres), JiayuguanPass was built with rammed earth and is shaped like a trapezoid;ithas a good layout with a three-storied gate tower, fourcorner towers and consists of an inner city wall, an outer city wall, a moat, and fortifications with walls around them.
With a perimeter of 733 meters (2,405 feet) and an area of more than 33,500 square meters (361,000 square feet), the 10-meter tall (33-feet) inner city wall is firm and magnificent, itis exceptionally thick and rammed with yellow soil.It has two gates: Rouyuan Gate in the west and Guanghua Gate in the east.The Rouyuan Gate is well connected with the outer city wall via an urn city (enceinte of a city gate), which directly leads to Jiayuguan Gate, over which stands Jiayuguan Tower.
Jiayuguan Pass is well preserved and its buildings are magnificent. The architectural complex of the castle is magnificently exquisite. Its towers and pavilions have a classic beauty and grandeur with their roofs upturned at the end of the ridges.
A number of cultural relics have been built near Jiayuguan Pass since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), of which the famous ones includethe ancient theater stage, Wenchang Pavilion, the Impregnable Pass Memorial, the Temple of General Guan Yu, and the Wei and Jin Folk Culture Tourist Scenic Area.
The ancient theater stage was built by General Dai Shiyi in the 57th year of the Emperor Qianlong’s reign during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and it served as a commercial and entertainment place for officers and soldiers. Thefront stage and the back stage are separated by a woodenscreen, in the middle of which the picture of the “Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea” is depicted.
A traditional Eight-Diagram pattern is depicted on the ceiling of the stage, and thefolk frescos are painted on each side of the front stage, which theme the daily lives of monks and nuns.
Built in the Ming Dynasty(1368-1644) and rebuilt in the 2nd year of the Emperor Daoguang’s reign in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Wenchang Pavilion has a gable and hip roof with double eaves, around which 18 crimson pillars stand. The pavilion is decorated with latticed windowson four sides, on which over 80 pieces of colored landscapes and figure drawings are painted;it used to be a place for scholars togoto recite and create poems in theMing Dynasty (1368-1644)and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
About 100 meters (328 feet) west of Jiayuguan Pass stands a stele with an inscriptionwhich reads “Impregnable Passunder Heaven”;it was written by the Gansu viceroy, Li Tingcheng, in the 14th year (1809) of the Emperor Jiaqing’s reign in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Thousands of ancient tombs are scattered in the Wei and Jin Folk Culture Tourist Scenic Area, which is praised as “the Underground Art Gallery” by archaeologists.
More than 660 pieces of colored frescos have beenexcavatedthere, which vividly depict the political, economic, cultural and military status of the Hexi Corridor during the Wei（220-265）and the Jin (265-420) dynasties.
In addition, you’re also recommended to visit the Suspended Great Wall, the Great Wall Museum and the Qiyi (July First) Glaciers after visiting the Jiayuguan Pass.
The initial construction began in the 5th year (1372) of the Hongwu Period of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Jiayuguan Pass got its name for being located on the Jayu Highland between the Wenshu and Heishan Mountains at the foot of the Qilian Mountains. Once abandoned, it was rebuilt, reinforced and garrisoned in 1539. In the Qing Dynasty (1636-1911), it became an office for checking merchants and travelers.