Yangguan Pass or Pass of the Jade Gate is located west of Dunhuang in today's Gansu Province of China. In ancient times, it was an important military pass, also a vital route on the Silk Road. It is said that in the Western Han Dynasty, only through this pass could the jade of the Western Regions be brought into the Central Plains, hence the name of the pass.
Around the period between 121-107BC, after Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty had developed the west of the Yellow River, the Pass of the Jade Gate and Yangguan Fort were established to ensure the smooth traffic on the Silk Road. The Pass of the Jade Gate had since become one of the key passes on the west frontier. After the Song Dynasty, the Pass of the Jade Gate was gradually decommissioned due to the declining of the Silk Road. Thanks to its unique geographic position and functions, the Pass of the Jade Gate has special cultural significance in the long history
In ancient times, the scenery of the vast desert at the frontier Pass triggered strong emotions of scholars and military men, who wrote numerous frontier poems, one of the most well-known lines being "beyond the Jade Gate vernal wind will never blow" from the poem Out Of The Great Wall by Wang Zhihuan of the Tang Dynasty. The poem brought greater fame to the Pass of the Jade Gate. At the same time, the Pass served as a bridge between Asia and Europe, giving a boost to economic and cultural exchanges between the east and west.
The remained loess-rammed square fort of the original Pass covers a total area of over 630 square meters, with the ancient Great Wall passing outside the north gate, and a piece of waste land lying outside the west gate. Areas around the Pass of the Jade Gate are also the areas where the Great Wall built in the Han Dynasty are best preserved.
A lot of valuable cultural relics have been unearthed from the Pass of the Jade Gate, the most important items being the large amount of inscribed bamboo slips. They are precious materials for the research in the military issues, life, culture and diplomatic affairs at the frontier during the period of one hundred years or so of the Han Dynasty.
Features of Yumenguan Pass
Originally known as Small Square City, the Great Wall Yumenguan Pass, together with Yangguan Pass, is one of the two important passes on the western frontier of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220) lands. It is located 56 miles northwest to Dunhuang City, Gansu Province, at the western end of Hexi Corridor. In ancient times, it was the crucial gateway from central China to the western regions.
In the early Han Dynasty, the Huns ceaselessly invaded the Han's area. At first, the weak Han rulers attempted to marry the daughters of imperial families to the Huns' leaders, in hope of gaining temporary peace. When Emperor Wu rose to power, he immediately gave up this cowardly policy by launching fierce counterattacks on a large scale. Finally, the Hun's troops were driven back. In order to strengthen the stability of the western frontier, this wise emperor ordered Yumenguan and Yangguan Passes to be set up along the Hexi Corridor. Henceforth, these two passes, like two royal soldiers, honorably began to guard the western gate for their motherland.
In the past, the beautiful jade was transported to the inner China through this pass via the Silk Road, which gave its name, Yumenguan, or "Jade-Gate Pass" in English. At that time, Yumenguan Pass served mainly as a post station for businessmen, military generals and ambassadors. It has witnessed the prosperity of business transactions along the Silk Road. The silk peculiar to inner China was transported to the western region in an endless stream. Cultural aspects of western China such as music and religion were introduced to central China at the same time. It is said that the grapes, pomegranates and walnuts now growing in central China were originally from the western area.
Two thousand years later, the light ringing sound of busy camel trains has disappeared. The cry of sellers in the markets is completely gone. Yumenguan Pass of Great Wall has lost its historic function. It is only a rectangular castle standing in the Gobi desert. It covers an area of over 232 square miles, measuring 27 yards long, 29 yards wide and 32 feet high. The pass was built of rammed yellow earth and has two gates - the west gate and the north gate. There is a walkway measuring 1.4 yards wide on the top. Nuqiang (a jagged parapet on the wall) was set there too. In the southeast corner lies the "Ma Dao" (Horse Ramp), by which people and horses could gain access to the top of the wall.
Climbing to the top of the pass, you can see the relics of the Great Wall and beacon towers scattered sparsely in the desert, creating an atmosphere of recalling the past.
Reviews of Yumenguan Pass
At the heyday of the Silk Road, the Yumen Pass is one of two gates that travelers exit to head west for trade or pilgrimage. What's left today is a fenced-off small fortress, which you can only observe from a distance. Like several other ancient relics of Dunhuang, what you're seeing is a symbolic site, a romantic spot that has inspired much beautiful Chinese poetry about separation and traveling away from the homeland.
Yumen means 'jade gate' or 'jade pass'. Legend has it that jade that originated from what is today Xinjiang and Tibet regions came into China through this gate.
The open space in this area is dry, often windy, and in the summer extremely scorched. Sunglasses are essential and you may consider bringing a light scarf to cover your face from the dust. During the summer, the locals come here to observe the sunrise and sunset.
How to get Yumenguan Pass
Since it is far from Dunhuang City, it is better to rent a car
Yumenguan Pass Travel Tips
Located in the Gobi desert, there are no dinning or lodging areas close to the attraction. Visitors have to stay and dine in Dunhuang City.