Our next stop was in a small(ish) city called Jiayuguan. Although an important area historically, Jiayuguan is quite small, with a population of less than half a million people.
There isn’t a lot to see here, but we still reserved a day of our trip for a quick visit, because although this isn’t a big city, it’s home to the western end of the Great Wall of China!
Historically, Jiayuguan was very important. Not only was it the end of the wall, protecting China from ‘the outside’ but Jiayuguan was also an important part of the silk road (which allowed China to trade with ‘the outside’ and gain power with a strengthened economy). It was also a place of poetry and deep sadness; at least for anyone who was exiled, because this is where that usually happened.
The Great Wall was built differently in different areas of the country. Near Beijing, we saw bricks and plaster made from rice and dirt. Here in Jiayuguan, sand and compressed dirt were used. The wall blends in beautifully with its surroundings.
I really liked the crumbly and ancient feel of Gubeiku Great Wall, and I was complaining that Jiuyuguan Pass was too ‘inauthentic’, but Dave pointed out one advantage of having it so well-restored: you’re able to see how the wall functioned.
Jiayuguan Pass wasn’t just protecting open country side, as was in the case of other sections of the wall; it was also protecting a city. The way it was reconstructed allowed us to see what some of the important buildings looked like 700 years ago when the wall was still functional. That aspect of it was pretty cool.
All in all, I’m happy we went. I think if I had known a bit more, I would have skipped this portion of our trip and spent a bit more time hiking around Mati Si, but still… It was pretty cool to see the western end of the Great Wall of China!!
Next, we went to Dunhuang, home of singing sand dunes and lots of Buddha’s! More on that next time!!