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Day 49 Jiayuguan [China 2011]

(I’m going to complete the June-July 2011 entries covering travel in China.)

July 14, 2011 (Thursday)

Forty-ninth day in China, one day in Jiayuguan: 嘉峪关 Jiayuguan fortress, 悬壁长城 Hanging Great Wall

We took the train from Dunhuang a few hours to Jiayuguan, back east along the Silk Road. Jiayuguan town was unremarkable. We got a cabbie to take us to three sites: Jiayuguan, the Hanging Great Wall, and the river. At Jiayuguan we paid entry and rented an audioguide. The approach to the fort wound around a small lake stuffed with reeds. We passed the brown brick walls through a gate and walked to the inner fortress, a complex of walls and towers from the Ming dynasty. We walked under the towers and climbed the walls. A wall extended from either side of the complex. Jiayuguan was once the last bastion of the Great Wall. Pass through the gate and the traveler would leave China. A clerk would paint their likeness to confirm their identity on return. Outside the wall on our visit, tourists posed for photos on camels, while inside an old woman tried to get us to watch a “mouse show”. From the wall stretched a barren field to the foot of dark mountains. Beyond rose the icy peak of 祁连山 Qilianshan, the mountain separating Gansu and Qinghai.

The cab took us to the Hanging Great Wall. The renovated wall climbs the crags outside Jiayuguan city. Qilianshan could be seen over the peaks. The town of Jiayuguan sat on a vast flatland. Smoke rose from factories in town. Farmland ran up to the wall, illustrating 長城外內, the separation of inside and outside the Great Wall. We made the short ascent to a tower and took the stairs down the rocks. The cab drove us next to a bend in the river bounded by sheer cliffs. We walked a suspension bridge over the chasm.

We ate dinner in a restaurant by the train station, and rode the sleeper back to Lanzhou.


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Kieran Maynard

Kieran Maynard

Writer, translator, researcher, traveler specializing in Japanese and Chinese literature.

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