The Great Wall of China was a welcome addition to the natural geographical defenses of the Gansu Province, in the western reaches of China. The entire western end of the Qin Wall, along the Yellow River, is, in fact, not even a solid wall! The Yellow River itself acted as a natural barricade -- the fact is that the only construction needed to complete the defensive positions were forty-four towns built at key points in Gansu.
This town, a fortification at Jiayu Pass also called Last Fort Under Heaven, is at the far western end of the Great Wall. The tourist to Jiayuguan looking for segments of the Great Wall should visit three areas:
- The Jiayu Pass is the far-west end of the Ming Great Wall of China -- stop at the trapezoid-shaped fortress that overlooks the Gobi Desert. The Great Wall Museum inside the Pass requires no additional ticket.
- The Xuanbi Overhanging Wall is about 4.2 miles (7 kilometers) east from The Pass -- a visitor can walk the route in about an hour, or take a taxi. Visit two sections of the Wall, a short distance apart: the first has an ancient fort with two towers, the second is higher and has two towers, but no fort.
- The First Pier of Great Wall can be reached via a cable car over the river Beida.
Known also as Shachou, or City of Sands, visit this town to see a natural wonder of the Gobi Desert, the Crescent Spring, surrounded by Echoing Sand Mountain. The beautiful desert oasis is about 3.75 miles (6 kilometers) south of Dunhuang.
This town, whose name translates as Pass of the Jade Gate, is located west of Dunhuang in the Gansu Province of China. This mountain pass was part of the Silk Road, the last fact of the only connection between Central Asia and China, and the last outpost of Chinese territory for caravans journeying on to India and the ancient Roman Empire.
The only part of the Great Wall left here is a broken beacon tower, standing alone in the desert. South of the pass, visit the Curio Beach, a small valley where ancient Chinese coins, tiles, decorations, and weapons can still be found.
At this ancient garrison headquarters, you should visit the Da Fo Si, a Buddhist Temple with the largest Chinese indoor reclining Buddha: 113 feet (34.5 meters) long, 24.6 feet (7.5 meters) high. Outside of town, see the Mati Temple, carved into cliff caves.
Wuwei and Minqin
Originally stops along the Silk Road trade route, you should visit the fortresses outside the towns to see the relics preserving the daily life of the soldiers who defended the city and the Great Wall of China.