Yumenguan pass, China

Yumenguan pass or "Jade Gate" to China

90 km north-west from Dunhuang to the east from the Yanguan pass, there is the Yumenguan pass similar to it. These two particular passes throughout the whole period of operation of the Silk Road were the only points to rest and replenish water supplies on a huge and most dangerous part of the caravan road that ran through the Gobi desert.

The Yumenguan pass built in so-called western Hexi Corridor of the Great Wall of China was a small fortified city. The pass was built under the Han Dynasty (III century BC - III century AD) to protect the trade caravans and the communities in the oases located in the Empire’s western territories from the attacks of the northern Huns. During a long period, the pass was functioning as a post house for the important government officials and generals to change horses and get shelter. However, with the start of trade between the East and the West in the II century BC the pass became an important strategic and trading center, through which the import of nephritis to inner China was launched. Thus a little remote castle got its name Yumenguan - "Jade Gate".

Since the pass was part of the Great Wall of China, the fortress was built on a cliff. Like all the watchtowers and forts along the whole length of the Wall, Yumenguan has a rectangular shape. The pass in its territory of total area of 600 km2, had a special road for horses, leading to the wall and also to several gates. Not far from the pass there are several flag towers used as warning beacons. This was the way the garrison often conveyed messages for help during the raids of the Huns.

Today the Yumenguan pass being only a part of the cultural heritage of China, lost its strategic importance, but became one of the main attractions of tourist routes along the Silk Road.