Suitcase and World: Jiayuguan Fortress.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Jiayuguan Fortress.

Mal and I met up with Yim and Sal for breakfast at 8a. We took Mal to the same woman that we had bought the Chinese cruellers form yesterday. Today, I had two and a small plastic cup of warm soy milk. That was a perfect breakfast for me.

After breakfast, we headed back to our rooms and finished  packing up our luggage. Though we were not leaving town, we would be switching over to another hotel.  Yim and Sal had arranged for us to be in 4-4.5 star hotels and apparently, the hotel we were going to had more stars.  Doesn't really matter to me but at the same time, I can't complain about being in more comfortable environs.  We all met back up with Cathy and our driver at 9a for the 3 hour drive to Jiaguyuan where we had our lunch at a local restaurant.

Quick stop to fill up on gas and use the toilet.

Bicycles are still a very popular way to get around town.

Cathy....always at the ready to help us order our meals.

Sauteed veggies.  You can count on Mal for always asking for a plate of them.

Sizzling tofu in a hot pot.  My usual request.  I love tofu!

Sauteed eggplants and flat beans.  Sauteed chicken with veggies.

After lunch, it was off to visit the old fortress of Jiayuguan. 

Statue of Kublai Khan?

Back in Silk Road days, Jiayuguan was the first pass at the west end of the Great Wall of China, located at the narrowest point of the western section of the Hexi Corridor.   The fortress was built during the Ming Dynasty, in the 14th century.

You have to use your fingerprint to enter the turnstile. Since we were entering as a group, only one fingerprint was needed and for some
odd reason, my left index finger was the only one that worked.

Today, it has pretty much been entirely reconstructed to give visitors a sense of what the original place looked like.  As we walked through the fortress, Cathy did point out sections where the old walls and gate floors still existed. Cathy is turning out to be a very good guide - she does a wonderful job at explaining things to us as we made our visit through parts of the fortress.

As we passed through the entry gate,  Cathy pointed out the original, rammed earthed section of the Great Wall just to the right.

Unrestored section of the Great Wall.

Jiayuguan Map (Image from China Highlights)

As you might expect, inside the fortress walls were various buildings that served as housing as well as the administrative offices for the military personnel that once worked and lived here.  There were also temples for prayer.

Guandi Temple on the left.

We entered Guandi Temple to have a quick look.

We did see a few interesting things on our walk through the fortess.  One was what was described as a Riding Track.  I would describe it as a ramp that soldiers could walk their horses up and down.  During an invasion, the ramp could be used to roll down logs and rocks against the least that's what the descriptive sign indicated.

From the upper part of the fortress wall, we could take in a view of the surroundings. Sadly, it was not all a pretty view.   This is modern day, industrial China.  I wonder how future archaeologists and historians will describe this.

Another interesting thing we saw was a single brick sitting on a ledge.  You couldn't miss it for it really stuck out like a sore thumb.  There's a story behind the brick.

It story tells of a workman named Yi Kaizhan in the Ming Dynasty (1368BC-1644BC) who was proficient in arithmetic. He calculated that it would take exactly 99,999 bricks to build the Jiayuguan Pass. His supervisor did not believe him and said if they miscalculated by even one brick, then all the workmen would be punished to hard labor for three years. After construction of the pass was completed, one brick was left behind  The supervisor was ready to punish Yi Kaizhan and all the workmen. However Yi Kaizhan said with deliberation that the brick was put there by a supernatural being to fix the wall. A tiny move would cause the collapse of the wall. Believing what he was told, the supervisor ordered for the brick to be kept there and never moved.  And so a lone brick sits on the ledge today.

We also had a bit of laughter thanks to Mal who spotted a man banging at a gigantic drum.  She wanted to do the same.  For 10 yuan, she got two hits and she gave it her best.  The rest of us cheered her on and got a good chuckle out of it.

Our walk actually took us, for a short time, outside the fortress.

A section of the original stone floor, leading out of the fortress.

In a small area, outside the fortress gate, bactrian camels were at the ready to take paying customers for a ride around the area.

Back inside the fortress walls, we took a peek inside several living quarters, including one assigned to a butler.

The Queen has arrived :-)

Leaving the fortress behind, we walked the short distance to the museum.

Another section of the original rammed earth Great Wall.

I would describe the museum as a small, regional ethnographic museum. Everything was very nicely displayed and thankfully, Cathy could read and interpret the item descriptions for us as everything was in Chinese.

I did see quite a few items that I found interesting like these strips of wood that were used for communications.  Amazing thing is that Chinese script has not changed a bit since it was first invented so someone from today can still read what was written centuries ago!


Stick used to transmit messages between government officials located in different regions.

There was a reason why I took  pictures of these bamboo tabs but I can't remember why.  Hmmm.....maybe if I could read the Chinese script, that might help.

I love Chinese miniatures and I was particularly captivated by this tiny army, cast in bronze.

From the museum, a lovely garden path let us back to the parking lot where our driver was waiting for us.  We had one more destination to go to before calling it a day.

I close this post with my photo of Cathy that I took as we were walking back to the car.  Her smile is genuine.  We are all quickly developing a bond with her!