The Great Wall of China at Yumenguan and Yangguan (Yumen and Yang Passes)

Dunhuang, China

Yang Pass

Travel back in time and experience the great Yang Pass where travel and trade activities took place. This pass was a defensive line along the Silk Road that gave people a sense of security but in equal measure it also filled them with parting grief when they had to send off their loved ones; there are even renowned poetic quotes about the pass. Among the many, the most famous one goes: “Oh, my friend, I sincerely entreat you to have another cup of wine; you will see no more friends west out of the Yangguan Pass”. An interesting fact is that the climate is arid enough to be able to preserve these magnificent pieces of the wall. Made by Emperor Wu of Han dynasty, it is nearly 400 years old and has been renovated many times over its life.

There are no public buses available to get here. Taxis are recommended but they’ll cost a lot if you travel alone; it’ll be much reasonable if you share a taxi and split the cost. For larger groups, hiring a minibus and checking out the neighboring attractions is a smart idea that will cost under RMB500. The admissions fee is RMB50. Opening hours are from 08:00 to 20:00. The best time to visit is before sunrise or to watch the sun set. To wait for sunrise, visitors can plan a stay at the farmhouses close to the place.
If you wish to get genuine immigration papers (like people did in previous times to pass the wall) as souvenirs of this trip, apply for a passport at the general’s office. The following procedure is only valid from April till November. This is done in groups with a cost of RMB600 for 20 people or less; if more (21-50), it increases to RMB1000 per group; and RMB30 per person if people are more than 50. The price of the passport depends on the paper quality. The style with the waist tag costs RMB30, inscribed wooden slip style costs RMB50, passport made out of linen costs RMB20 and the one made with paper consisting of a silk cover will cost RMB20. You will get a free cup of wine and a branch of willow with this as a sign of blessing included in the package deal.

The place will likely be lost in the sands of time as most of it has already eroded away, with very little remaining of the original. Still it is so fascinating for how many years it has survived. Definitely for people who have seen other parts of the Great wall and are interested in the ancient history of China. Yangguan comprises of some other sites: a Museum detailing the history of the pass as well as the major events that took place during its life, Curio Sand Valley, where people in olden times used to try and dig up buried treasures they believed had come from sunken caravans and a Sandy Beacon Tower at the top of a hill.

Yumenguan Pass

The Yumenguan Pass, also known as the Great Jade Gate, was established by the Chinese Emperor Wu, as was the other Yangguan pass, in the Han dynasty. This enormous, square, castle-like structure was once a gateway on the Silk Route for international trading as well as a military shield along the Great Wall to protect the people of its land against foreign invaders. Now, it stands in the middle of the barren desert, all alone. It has two gates on the sides: The North gate and The West gate. The whole thing was made with yellow colored mud wedged tightly in and out to make it stand firm and once it was complete and dry, it was indeed very strong.

Entry ticket for the Pass is RMB40 which will also include the following sites: Hecang Fortress and Han Dynasty Great Wall. May to October is the best period to visit. Timings for visiting are from 08:00 to 18:00. A reasonable duration to spend here is 1-2 hours maximum. There is no direct public bus service to the attraction but hiring a minivan is recommended when travelling with companions to share the cost… around RMB 300 and then maybe even make a bargain with the driver. Alternatively, take a cab which will cost a little less but taking a car is also a good option, given the journey might get boring along the way with long stretches of the bumpy roads but in that case, one can carry snacks, books etc. for entertainment purposes.

Shades and water bottles are necessary in harsh sunny weather. A popular misleading concept is that people think just because the Yumenguan pass and Yangguan pass have similar names, located on the same Silk Road, they might be close enough to each other and that they can actually cover both sites in half a day or less. However, on the contrary because these two passes are about 160 kilometers away from each other which means it takes at the least up to 2-3 hours (travelling by car) and each site needs about 1 hour to be closely observed so to add up, a whole day.

One of the best things to enjoy and witness here is the sunrise and sun sets. When the crimson sunlight turns the desert into a sea of fire, a vivid imagination of a once fierce battlefield. Although not much to do or see here but to whom the ancient Chinese history may concern, it is worth the visit! With huge skies, a beautiful wall and the peaceful atmosphere in the middle of Gobi Desert, it is still pretty fascinating. It is beneficial to have somewhat knowledge about this place to grasp its worth otherwise you’re just staring at an empty wall in the middle of nowhere.

Since included in the cost, visit the Hecang Fortress that also goes by the name, Square City. You cannot really see it unless you go up front and lastly check out the Han dynasty Great wall.

Other Attractions In Dunhuang