One of the earliest sections of the Great Wall, Guguan was originally constructed during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC). As with many ancient sections of the Wall, Guguan was rebuilt and fortified into its current majestic form during the Ming Dynasty. Its remarkable characteristics have earned Guguan the nickname, “Little Badaling.”
Today, Guguan is noted as the only surviving example of stone built Great Wall, which gives it an impressive grey slate facade. Other features of Guguan are the variety of towers and ramparts, including cannon towers, fire signal towers and horn blower towers.
Commissioned by Ming emperor Hongwu, the Guangwu fortification is made of bricks and stone and extends over 5 kilometers at an average height of 7 meters. Though much of Guangwu currently stands in ruins, 5 of its 16 watchtowers have survived. It is said that the shape of Guangwu resembles that of a dragon stretching out with its pointed tail in the east and its massive head in the west.
In this prefecture-level city in the northern most section on Shanxi, Datong features un-rebuilt sections of original Great Wall as well as an extensive recreation of the Datong City Wall.
Pingxingguan Pass received its name from its bottle-shaped form. Coincidentally, this structure served to The connective intersection for three other passes (Ningwu Pass, Yanmen Pass, and Pian Pass). Historically, this section of the Great Wall was the site of “the Great Victory in Pingxingguan” where the Chinese Army scored an important victory over Japanese invaders.
Along with Ningwuguan and Pianguan, Yanmenguan is one of the three great passes of Shanxi Province. This historic 300-kilometer section of the Great Wall was first built during the Warring States Period and then rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty Wall building boom. Yanmenguan’s formidable combination of high elevation, strong winds and imposing stature make the pass difficult even for birds to navigate. It’s been said that birds are known to circle Yanmenguan, gaining elevation, before they can successfully cross. The length is 302km.
Located in the northern end of Shanxi Province, Youyu (“Right Jade”) County features an 84-kilometer section of the Great Wall that was alternately built by the Qin and Han states during the Warring States Period. The surviving structures at Youyu include several towers and a castle. These remnants all hail from the Ming Dynasty, when this section of the Wall served multiple purposes as a defensive barrier against invaders as well as a trade corridor from Manchu merchants to pass into China.
Located in Pingding County, this fortification’s name is derived from an interesting bit of Tang Dynasty history. During the rise of the Tang Dynasty, the Princess Pingyang helped her father seize the throne with her army of woman warriors. It is said that her army, stayed at this pass, hence the name Niangziguan, which is translated to mean “the Ladies’ Pass.”
Built during the early part of the Ming Dynasty, the Pianguan Pass is situated on high ground, overlooking the Yellow River. This long-standing military installation protected China from foreign invasion for centuries. Today, Pianguan now lies mostly in ruins from disrepair and exposure, but its remarkable location and history continue to make Pianguan a worthwhile destination.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site (2001), the Yungang Grottoes are renowned for both their natural features as well as cultural significance. A stunning example of Buddhist cave art, the Grottoes feature over 50,000 statues as well as numerous paintings and other artifacts.
Built during the Liao Dynasty (907-1125), the Wooden Pagoda of Fogong Temple stands as the oldest and tallest multi-story all-wood pagoda in the world. This 9-story structure was known as “the first pagoda” during the Ming Dynasty and today is under consideration for UNESCO World Heritage designation.
The Ancient City of Pingyao
The Ancient City of Pingyao was founded in the 14th century by the Ming emperor Hong Wu. Visitors will find its temples, city walls, dwellings and other structures a fantastic representation of Chinese cultural development from the 14th through the 19th centuries. UNESCO World Heritage Site 1997.
The highest mountain in Northern China, the sacred Buddhist mountain of Wutai is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site (2009). Wutai’s name literally translates to the “Five Terraced Mountain.” Upon these five plateaus, Wutai is home to over 40 monasteries, 500 statues and an infinite wealth of history, legend and religious significance.
Built into the side of a mountain over 1,600 years ago, the Hanging Temple has miraculously survived the centuries and continues to function as a place of worship for China’s three traditional religions: Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
Considered the largest ice cave in China, Luyashan is a marvel for all visitors to behold. Brilliant ice formations in all shapes cover the walls and ceilings of the cave as if frozen in time and space. Spectacular lighting effects further enhance the viewing experience.