Gansu is one of the provinces to have most Great Wall sections. The investigation shows that at least five states or dynasties have built Great Wall in Gansu Province. They are the King of Zhao in Qin State (324BC-251BC), Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC), Han Dynasty (206BC-220), Northern Liang State (401-439) and Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The overall length has surpassed 4,000 km (2,485 miles). But due to the natural and human factors, many sections have been badly damaged. Gansu is where the Great Wall of China ends in the west.
Features of the Great Wall in Gansu
The Great Wall in Gansu is mainly the relic of five dynasties: Warring States (475 – 221 BC), Qin Dynasty (221 – 207 BC), Han Dynasty (020 BC – 220 AD), Northern Liang Dynasty (502 – 557), and Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). Of these, sections of Qin, Han, and Ming comprise the largest proportion.
Gansu houses the longest Ming Dynasty Great Wall, measuring about 1,080 miles (1,738 kilometers), covering one fifth of the total length of the Ming sections. Sections of the Warring States Period are 370 miles (595 kilometers) long, and the Han Great Wall is 1,370 miles (2,205 kilometers) in length.
In some regions, which are not suitable to construct ramparts, dense beacon towers were built to defend against enemies. In total, 1,334 beacon towers have been discovered in Gansu.
The construction work follows the principle of using local materials. The clever ancient people built the wall by ramming earth so as to be as solid as stone. This dense earth made the body of the wall difficult to deform and split. Jiayuguan Pass is a typical example built in this way. In the desert, people created the wall by laying branches of local red willow, reeds and sand layer upon layer. Yumenguan Pass and Yangguan Pass are relics of this kind.
The Rescue Work is Very Urgent
Thousands of years have not been kind to the Great Wall in Gansu. What remained after the Warring States and Han Dynasty is less than half of the original length. Of the 1,060-mile (1,705-kilometer) Ming section only around 620 miles (998 kilometers) remain.
The remaining parts continue to dwindle day by day because of natural disasters and human destruction. TravelChinaGuide has sent survey groups to Shandan County, Gansu Province in 2002 and 2009 to investigate the damage of the local sections. Thousands of years of natural erosion has made most parts look like mounds, and some are even beyond recognition. Due to the dry climate, it is very hard to find grass in the desert. Peasants even allow livestock to dig grass roots at the foot of the ramparts. Some even shovel bricks from the ramparts to build their own houses. Sections in other regions also suffer the same pain. If people don't take immediate action, the remaining parts will finally disappear together with their glorious historical memories.
Sites of the Great Wall in Gansu
Located in northwest Gobi or desert, Great Wall in Gansu was mainly built with rammed earth, red willow, reeds, or sand. This makes it look different from other brick or stone sections as you may think. The most famous sections here include Jiayuguan Pass, Yangguan, and Yumenguan, all in earth yellow.
No.1: Jiayuguan Pass
Jiayuguan Pass, six kilometers west of Jiayuguan City, is the west end of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall, dividing the central plain with the western regions. It was constructed with the most integrated defensive system: an inner city, an outer city, and a moat. Besides functioning as a frontier military fortress, it was also an important traffic hub along the Silk Road, the oldest worldwide trading route. Standing among vast desert and surrounded by rolling mountains, Jiayuguan Pass looks like a dignified general guarding the grand land.
Jiayuguan Pass is not only endowed with geographical advantages, but excellent topographical and environmental features. It faces the Gobi, a vast open terrain that once served as a battle ground in ancient times. To its south is the trubulent Taolai River and the Wenshu Mountain and on its inner side lies a smooth terrain made of oases, fertile pasture land with adequate water sources.
No.2: Overhanging Great Wall
Eight kilometers north of Jiayuguan Pass, this section is like a rope ladder thrown down from the top of the mountain and hanging among the cliffs. Ascending about 400 stairs to the top, you will have a bird's-eye-view of the endless desert.
The First Beacon Tower of the Great Wall, also known as Taolai River Beacon Tower,is the First Pier of the Great Wall which is located 5 km from the west of Jiayuguan City,at the west part of Hexi Corridor of Gansu Province.It is the first beacon tower of theGreat Wall and also the western starting point of the Ming Great Wall, as one of the important part of the Jiayuguan Great Wall defense system. Standing about 7.5 km away from the Jiayuguan Fortress,The Beacon Tower standing at the summit of the 80 meters deep valley, which one may well say it is the most dangerous beacon tower of the world.
The First Fire Tower once was a cubic earth construction with the height, width, and length all equal to 14 meters. As a result of water erosion over hundreds of years, some parts of the tower have been destroyed. Today the remaining site measures nine meters high and the bottom of it is an irregular square. This once vital outpost has faded into an earth mound.Now, the First Fire Tower has been developed as a comprehensive scenic area.
No4: Juyan Fortress
Juyan Fortress used to be an important frontier city located at the present border of Gansu and Inner Mongolia. You can find traces of different periods there, with the earliest site dating back to the Bronze Age. Here, you can also find 13 city sites of different ages, six burial areas, 118 beacon towers of the Han Dynasty, and temple sites built during the time from the Western Xia Dynasty (1038 – 1227) to the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368).
No.5: Yumen Pass
Yumen Pass, aslo wellknown as theJade Gate Pass, is located in the Gobi Desert, Yumen city, Gansu Province. Not to far north there is Hala Lake, and further beyond that is the great wall. To the south is Yang Guan Pass, also know as Sunny Pass.Yumen pass was erected under the order of Emperor Wudi, around 121 BC for the sake of the convenience to western regions. Yumen Pass’s ruins lie fairly close to Dunhuang, roughly 90km. Dunhuang was the last outpost in the Chinese territory for caravans, and travelers. Today this 30 foot mud brick gate and its walls are nothing more than an ancient castle, however back in ancient times this pass was one of two passes (Yu Men Pass, and Yang Guan Pass) that protected, and ensured the safety and smooth travels for passing caravans, and visitors in and out of China via ancient Silk Road.
There is no brick or rock in the construction of Han Dynasty Great Wall. Since large areas of rose willows, reeds, bluish dogbanes, poplars grew in the local place, the ancient people collected the branches as the foundation, and put some soils and sands above, layer by layer, built the Han Dynasty Great Wall. They put some silver sand on the bottom lands to record enemy’s footprints. It was a defensive measure.
Along the Great Wall, there is a beacon tower in every ten miles. It was used to supervise and deliver information, as well as offer supplement for the messengers or trade caravans of the Silk Road. Several soldiers guarded the tower, and would send smoke signals from the tower as alarm when they found enemy troops approaching.
No.7: Yangguan Pass
The southern route of the Silk Road started from Yangguan Pass. Old poems portrayed many separation scenes around Yangguan Pass, making it a symbol of separation and sadness. However, it is now not only a site to reflect on the past, but also, as the second Grape Valley in China (the first being in Turpan, Xinjiang), for visitors to taste this sweet fruit.
Yangguan, literally means “Sun Gate”, is a mountain established in 121BC of the Western Han Dynasty (206BC - 24AD) to defend against the attacks of other minority nationalities, and to develop the area of Xiyu - the western regions of Han Dynasty being the area west of Yumenguan Pass including what is now Xinjiang and parts of Central Asia.As an important part of the Silk Road, Yangguan Pass is the key place to the transportation between ancient China and other countries.
King Zhaoxiang of Qin in the Warring States Period eliminated Yiqurong and built the Qin Great Wall in Weiyuan County, which is the oldest part of the Great Wall in Chinese history. The residue height of most parts of the Great Wall is about 3 meters, and some higher parts can even reach 10 meters. There is a small beacon tower every 500 meters and a big beacon tower every 1000 meters, very spectacular manmade wonders indeed. The Qinwang Temple at the foot of the Great Wall is the place where Emperor Qin Shihuang stayed for one night in his westward tour to Longxi County. The descendants built this temple in honor of him. There is a poem on the remnant mural of the temple,“Swiftly Weihe River flows day and night;Till how long will the lords fight?Relics of the Great Wall are tattered and torn;Yet the olden-day Qin nobles are long gone."