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Top 13 Fortification Passes along the Great Wall

The Great Wall was originally built over 2500 years ago during the West Zhou Dynasty, and served as a functional military defense to prevent the invasion of the northern nomadic minorities. It had been playing a crucial role in wars in ancient Chinese history. The great wall extends from Hushan Great wall in Liaoning Province to the Jayuguan Pass in Gansu Province. Along its 8,851.8 km (5,500miles) course in this great human fortifications, there are hundreds and thousands watch towers and passes. This article introduces you to the 13 most famous and important passes from east to west along the great wall during its years served as the most important fortifications for central China defending the northern nomadic minorities.

No.1 Shanhaiguan Pass 山海关

Shanhaiguan pass or shanhai pass, literally meaning mountain sea pass, is where the great wall meets the sea in the east. It gets its name for it is beside Mount Yan in the north and faces Bohai Sea in the south. As a strategic point, which holds the key passage from North China to Northeast China, it has been contended by military forces in history and thus earns the reputation described in the following lines " There is no other place in the world to be the key of two capitals, it is the No. l pass of the Ten-thousand-1i Great Wall." that’s why it enjoys the title of "First Pass under Heaven". Together with the Jiayuguan pass and Juyongguan pass, they are the three major pauses of the Great Wall of China. Learn more about the Shanhaiguan great wall by click here.
shanhaiguan pass

No.2 Huangyaguan Pass 黄崖关

Huangyaguan pass or Huangya pass locates in 30 km away from Ji County in Tianjin City and is about 100 kilometers from Beijing. It is one of the ten most worth visiting places of Jinmen. Huangya Pass was firstly built in Northern Qi Dynasty and then had been rebuilt in Ming Dynasty. The entire section of Huangyaguan pass Great Wall is built on an abrupt yellow cliff, so it was so named. It is also enjoys the name of minor Yanmenguan Pass(雁门关). With its walls and towers built on mountain ridge with an average altitude of 738 meters, Huangyaguan is really overwhelming. From the east where is mainly cliff and to the west where is mainly crags. It winds its way across mountains like a dragon. It once had been an important north entrance of Jixian County.Learn more about hiking routes of Huangyaguan great wall by click here. Learn more about Huangyaguan Great Wall.
huangyaguan great wall

No.3 Juyongguan Pass 居庸关

Juyongguan enjoys the title of “toughest impregnable pass under heaven” and Juyongguan Great Wall had ranked as one of the eight splendid sceneries in Beijing.The entire fortification system has two passes in fact, with the south pass called Nankou (South pass) and the north pass called Juyongguan pass. Till the Han dynasty, the pass had been built and maintained to a large scale already. After that, the Juyongguan pass has witnessed dynasties of Tang, Liao, Jin, Yuan and Ming building and repairing the pass over the years. Of course, it also witnessed hundreds of battles and the unstoppable Genghis Khan broke through the great wall from here and later taken over the Jin dynasty. The currently Juyongguan pass was mainly rebuilt and repaired in the Ming dynasty over 300 hundred years ago. Today, Juyongguan Great Wall is a part for adventurers as well as photographers to appreciate the most original atmosphere to the ancient battle. And Juyongguan Pass is one of the three greatest passes of the Great Wall of China. The other two are Jiayuguan Pass and Shanhaiguan Pass.Learn more about the Junyongguan great wall by click here.
juyongguan great wall

No.4 Zijingguan Pass 紫荆关

Zijingguan pass locates on the Zijing Mountain 45 km northwest to Yixian County in Hebei province. Zijingguan pass has been one of the most strategic military pass point since it was built in the history. It was built in the Warring States period in ancient China, together with Juyongguan pass and Daomaguan Pass, they are the three important fortification along the inner great wall course. At Piantou Pass (偏头关) in Xinzhou, Shanxi province, the Great Wall splits in two with the "Outer Great Wall" extending along the Inner Mongolia border with Shanxi into Hebei province, and the "inner Great Wall" running southeast from Piantou Pass for some 400km, passing through important passes like the Pingxing Pass and Yanmen Pass before joining the Outer Great Wall at Sihaiye (四海冶), in Beijing's Yanqing County.

Zijing pass had witnessed 140 battles in the history, among which the most famous was the one that Genghis Khan conducted in 1213. Genghis Khan tried really hard yet failed to conquer the Juyongguan Pass from the outside of the great wall, so he divided the army and sent another group to attack the Zijingguan Pass. After Genghis Khan conquered the Zijing pass, he integrated the whole army to attack Juyongguan Pass again; this time with two armies attacked the pass from both outsides of the great wall. And this was not long before Genghis Khan’s army sweeped down the great wall fortifications and brought the scary threats to the capital city Beijing of Ming dynasty at that period.

No.5 Daomaguan Pass倒马关

Daomaguan pass locates in Daoma village which is 60km northwest to Tangxian County in Hebei province. Daomaguan pass is one of the important passes that anyone has to go through if one wishes to go to the Tanghang Mountain from the Hebei plain. It is a strategic pass that even it just guarded by one soldier, then the ten thousand-army will not be able to pass. Daoma literately means fall over horse, the pass got this name from Ming dynasty because the routes and slopes here are so demanding that often war-horses would fall over in here for its extremely roads conditions. The current Daomaguan pass relics were built during Jingtai eras in Ming dynasty. In 1476, Ming Xian Zong built the wall going from the Shanhaiguan Pass westwards to the Yanmenguan Pass by employing resident and armies. The Shanhaiguan Pass, Xifengkou, Gubeikou, the Juyongguan Pass and the Daomaguan Pass were connected from each other. Together with Juyongguan pass and Zijingguan Pass, they are the three important fortifications along the inner Great Wall course.

No.6 Pingxingguan Pass 平型关

Pingxing Pass locates in Baiyatai Village of Lingqiuxian County in Datong city, Shanxi province. It was built in Zhengde era in Ming dynasty. Pingxingguan pass has long before in history been an important pass along the great wall course. The Battle of Pingxingguan was fought here between the National Revolutionary Army's 8th Route Army of the China  and the Imperial Japanese Army on September 25, 1937.it was a milestone level success of the Chinese independent war against the Japanese and from that point the Chinese army and people has gradually taken over the power in the war and finally won the war in the end in 1945.

No.7 Piantouguan Pass 偏头关

Piantouguan pass locates at the river side of yellow river in Pianguan County in Xinzhou, Shanxi  province. Together with Nigwuguan(宁武关) pass and Yanmenguan(雁门关) pass, they are called “the three passes”. The current Piantouguan pass were rebuilt during Hongwu era in Ming dynasty. In that period, Piantouguan was a key point of north Shanxi area, guarding the pass between north Shanxi area and the outer Mongol regions. It was an important pass along the trade between central Chinese plains, Shanxi area and the Mongols areas. Here at Piantou Pass (偏头关) the Great Wall splits in two with the "Outer Great Wall" extending along the Inner Mongolia border with Shanxi into Hebei province, and the "inner Great Wall" running southeast from Piantou Pass for some 400 km, passing through important passes like the Pingxing Pass and Yanmenguan Pass before joining the Outer Great Wall at Sihaiye in Beijing's Yanqing County. In addition, since it locates at the turning corner of the yellow river, hence it has always been a most desired conquered pass in many wars in the history.

No.8 Yanmen Pass 雁门关

Yanmen pass or also called Xijing pass locates in Yanmen Mountain, which is around 20km away from Dai County in Xinzhou city in Shanxi province. This area was a strategic choke point in ancient China, it controlled the access between the valleys of central Shanxi and the Eurasian steppe. Hence it was an important pass on the Great Wall ever since it was built. It has two gates, east gate and west gate, both built with bricks. Yanmen pass enjoys the title of “the first pass of the nine great passes along the great wall”. Together with Niwu Pass(宁武关) and Pianguan Pass(偏头关), they are called the three passes on the outer great wall course. Yanmen Pass, sometimes translated in English to Wild Goose Pass or Wild goose Gate, is named after the wild geese who migrate through the area. Yanmen pass had witnessed various important battles, extending into World War II, generals of the Yang family defending the song kingdom against the Liao army; General Li mu during Zhao State conquered Huns or Attlia from Yanmen pass; Gaozu emperor, founder of the Han dynasty conquered north from Yanmen pass. Today, Yanmen pass Scenic Area is included in the AAAAA attractions listed by the China National Tourism Administration, and it is also rated as the tenth most popular tour sites of Shanxi province in China.

Travel Guide
Opening Time:  summer time8:00----19:30;  winter time 8:00----18:00;
Entrance Fee: 90 CNY per person.

No.9 Niangzi Pass 娘子关

Niangzi pass is an important pass along the Great Wall, it enjoys the title of “the Ninth Pass on the Great Wall”. Niangzi pass was once called Weize pass too as it named after the village it was once belonged to in the history. Niangzi is literately a way of calling ladies in Chinese history, hence the pass is also called ladies pass. Legend goes that during the Tang Dynasty, Princess Pingyang, daughter of Li Yuan, which was the first emperor of the Tang Dynasty, was the command of an army, once garrisoned here. That’s why people named it "Ladies Pass."

Its currently extant pass was mainly built in the Ming dynasty in 1542. It locates 45 kilometres west of Shijiazhuang, which is the capital of Hebei Province. Niangzi pass is one of the major passages from Shanxi Province to Hebei Province across the Taihang Mountains.Its defence here at Niangzi pass had played an important role in the Xinkou Battle between Chinese liberation army and the Japanese emperor invaders.

Travel Guide
Opening Time: 09:00~19:00   
Entrance Fee: 20.00CNY

No.10 Shahukouguan Pass 杀虎口关

Shahukouguan pass locates in Youyu County in Shuozhou city in Shanxi province. It sits at the border between Shanxi province and the Inner Mongolia minority autonomous region. It is an important pass along the outer great wall course and one of the must-go-through pass when anyone wishes to go to Taihang mountain area from the Mongol area and Shanxi central plain.

In Ming dynasty, the central emperor had sent armies several times from the Shahukou pass to fight against the west Mongol tribes called “wala” at that period, hence the Ming dynasty had once named here as Shahukou pass, namely meaning killing Mongols pass. Since the fifth year under the Ming Longqing years, the central Han Chinese and the west Mongols here had made peace. Since then there were prosperous business going on here to exchange goods between Hans and the Mongols, which certainly brought the flourish of this key point pass at the border. Later in order to cover the conflicts history between Hans and the Mongols, the authorities had changed the name of the pass from Shahukou (killing Mongols) to “killing tigers”, which sounds still the same but with different meanings and was kept using till today.

Travel Guide for Shahukouguan Pass
Transportations: Shahukouguan pass is 10km from the Inner Mongolia minority autonomous region, 110km from shuozhou city and 85km from Datong city. Besides it enjoys a convenient highway transfer connection with both Beijing and Taiyuan city.
Entrance Fee:Free entrance fee; 10CNY for the Shahukouguan great wall museum; 5CNY for getting to the top of the Shahukouguan pass.
Open Time: 8:00—18:00

No.11 Jiayuguan Pass 嘉峪关

Jiayuguan Pass is the first pass at the west of the Great Wall of China which is considered to be the ending point of the great wall of Ming Dynasty. It is situated between the Wenshu and Heishan Mountains at the foot of Jiayuguan Hill of Qilian Mountain. Along with Juyongguan(居庸关) and Shanhaiguan(山海关), it is one of the main passes of the Great Wall. It is Jiayuguan Pass is well-known as "the Impregnable Pass under the Heaven". It is also the most magnificent and best-preserved pass among the total over one thousand passes along the Great Wall of China. Jiayuguan Pass was built in the early Ming dynasty, about 1372. Legend has it that the official in charge asks the designer to calculate how many bricks would be used. The designer gives him the number and when the project is finished, only one brick is left. It is put on the top of the pass as a symbol of commemoration. For further reading about more what to see and when to go about Jiayuguan Pass, please kindly transfer to our page of Jiayuguan Pass attraction.
jiayuguan pass

No.12 Yangguan Pass 阳关

The Yangguan Pass, also known as the Southern Pass, sits 75 kilometers southwest o f Dunhuang. It was originally built by Emperor Wu as one of two most important passes protecting in the Hang Dynasty. The other one is the Great Wall of Han Dynasty. The Yangguan Pass was the important pass on the Southern Way of Silk Road, and the significant gateway connecting Central China and Western Regions. Today, the Yangguan Pass is the vital part of the Silk Road culture, and one of the representative relics of China Great Wall culture. For further reading about more what to see and when to go about Yanguan Pass, please kindly transfer to our page of Yangguan Pass attraction.
yangguan pass

No.13  Yumenguan Pass 玉门关

Yumenguan Pass was a strategic pass on the ancient Silk Road in Dunhuang. Yumen in Chinese means the jade of Gate.  The establishment of Yumenguan Pass started in the Han dynasty of Emperor Wu period; it has a history of more than 2000 years. Since the Qin and Han dynasties, warlike Huns nationality threat to the Han nationality. In the second years of Yuanshou period (121 BC), the general Huoqubing led soldiers fight against Huns through western expedition. For further reading about more what to see and when to go about yumen pass, please kindly transfer to our page of Yumen Pass attraction.
yumenguan pass

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