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"Jiayuguan Fortress - Part II" Jiayuguan Things to Do Tip by mke1963

Jiayuguan Things to Do: 30 reviews and 52 photos


The great brick and stone fortress is not the end of all the fortifications. There is a protective moat around the entire complex, most easily visible from the platform of the outer western gate. The moat is 10 metres wide, with a slight lip that conceals it from a distance. This is the "hidden" Great Wall that would prevent a direct attack on the wall of the fortress, and could also conceal soldiers ready to counter-attack. Further earth fortifications, including pits to trip charging horses, can be clearly seen all around the western gate. Everything was designed to confuse the enemy and deflect any frontal attack. Much of these earthworks predate the fortress itself.

Despite appearances, the fortress at Jiayuguan is not square, but rectangular with the 166 metre western wall the longest, and the two side walls (north and south) sloped in to a shorter, 154 metre eastern wall. Rather than being for any specific military reason, it is likely that this represented the easiest way to construct the fortress on such uneven ground. The end result was a fortress with a total inner wall length of 640 metres; the outer wall runs for 733 metres.

In front of the inner city wall, is what is known as the Luo City Wall, which forms the protective western barrier wall, with the third gate - this is the outer gate and the gate that, in essence, led out of China. This wall is 190 metres long and is no less than 25 metres thick at the base. Each of the crenellations along the top was fitted with a small loophole to allow a rifle to be rested for accurte aiming as any enemy approached the base of the wall.

The rest of the outer city wall, much smaller but firmly protected by the earthworks further out, is only 3.8 metres high but still high enough to be a major deterrent. Remember that this wall was behind the Great Wall so didn't need to be so substantial - if the enemy had got to this point (they never did) then there would be real problems.

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  • Written Feb 20, 2006
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