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Jiayuguan Overhanging Great Wall

Jiayuguan Overhanging Great Wall

Linking the indomitable Jiayuguan Fortress to Heishan (Black Mountain) is the Jiayuguan Overhanging Great Wall, which was constructed under the orders of the Ming Dynasty emperor Jiajing in 1539 in order to support the relentlessly-assaulted Jiayuguan Fortress. Originally this section of the wall was approximately 1.5 km in length, but due to frequent battles along the wall it was gradually eroded to its current length of 750 meters. The Overhanging Wall gets its name from a 230 meter-long section of the wall, which slants upwards at a sharp 45 degree angle along a 150 meter high ridge. To the ancient Chinese, when viewed from afar this section of the wall resembled a dragon unfurling its extended body towards the ground. However, the wall’s unique layout is not easily perceived from all angles, and for good reason. Ancient architects ingeniously erected the Overhanging Wall on the eastern side of Heishan in order to conceal the wall from invaders heading in from the west. Enemies confidently marching past the mountain would come across the wall at the last minute and fall into disarray beneath the shadow of Heishan as death rained down upon them from above.

These days, travelers are free to set out for a scenic walk along Jiayuguan Overhanging Wall, starting at the foot of Heishan. However, many sections of the wall are slippery or steep, and the entire climb is only recommended for visitors who are up for a challenge. Those able to make it to the top of the wall’s crest will be able to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the unassailable Gobi Desert, with a smattering of desert oases and snow-capped mountains visible in the distance on clear days. Although much of the existing wall was rebuilt in 1987, not much has changed, save for the fact that the clash and clang of countless battles have faded into history, swallowed by the rustling sand and the quiet hum of the desert wind.