March 4, 2010

The western end of the Great Wall in the Gobi Desert- Jiayuguan

Location: Jiayuguan, Gansu, China (39° 49′ 0″ N, 98° 18′ 0″ E)
Date: 16 May 1999; 2.30pm
Camera: (analogue) Canon 500N with negatives and scanned

Many foreigners to China only know of the Great Wall in the few touristy locations of Beijing. These are really touristy now with KFC and so on, and the sections are all refurbished and restored. By the end of this year, there is even a metro going all the way to Badaling. There are many other sections of the Great Wall that are still worth visiting for their locations and atmosphere. One of the most enigmatic sections is that located at the Jiayu Pass at Jiayuguan in Gansu. Located in the Gobi Desert at the westernmost end of the Great Wall, it is the most intact and largest fortress/section of the Great Wall. It sits between two hills (hence a pass) and is at a strategic location to guard the western frontier of the Middle Kingdom. It used to be rather involved to get to this destination (when I went in 1999); however it is much more accessible now as it is now a major tourist destination. When I visited the fortress more than 10 years ago, it was very much in its original state, majestically standing alone in the desert and full of mystique. I am afraid it is not likely to be the same now- I imagined the fortress is fully restored with fresh paint, congested with busloads of tourists and with many stalls selling souvenirs, food, drinks and the like- just like any other tourist spots “discovered” in China.

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