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Where Is the Start Point of the Great Wall?

updated: 2012-07-23

CNTV, July 20, 2012
The Great Wall of China is officially longer than previously thought. That's according to the results of a recent state survey. The latest measurements peg the length at 21,196.18 kilometers. It may seem endless; however, the world's longest man-made structure does indeed have a start point. That can be found at Jiayuguan Pass in northwest China's Gansu Province.
Jiayuguan, literally "Excellent Valley Pass" is the first pass on the western end of the Great Wall. It is found at the narrowest point of the western section of the Hexi Corridor, 6 kilometers southwest of the city of Jiayuguan in Gansu Province.
Work started during the Ming Dynasty in 1372, but the pass wouldn't be completed until 168 years later. Its construction was the stuff of legend. One story goes that when the section was being planned, the officer in charge asked the designer to estimate the exact number of bricks required and the designer gave him a number.
The general doubted that this would be enough, so the designer added one brick. When Jiayuguan was finished, according to the tale, there was exactly one brick left, which was placed loose on one of the gates where it remains today.
The pass is made up of a trapezoidal city wall 11 meters tall and 733 around encompassing more than 33,500 square meters. The area boasts three defensive lines as well: an inner city, outer city and a moat. Jiayuguan is the most intact surviving ancient military building among all the wall's passes. It is also known as the "First and Greatest Pass Under Heaven".
The pass was the most significant defensive system protecting the borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by nomadic groups. It was also an indispensable station at the ancient Silk Road. Jiayuguan also has a somewhat fearsome reputation though as the starting place of exile for many ex-officials ousted from court.
To find the exact spot where the Great Wall begins though, we must travel to the very the first beacon tower. That would be this earthen mound, built in 1539.
Feng Weili, tour guide, said, "The tower was originally 14 meters in length, width and height. But several hundred years of erosion and weathering has reduced it to this size. There used to be 39 beacon towers inside and outside of Jiayuguan Pass. All the towers were vital for ancient militaries. If enemy troops were spotted approaching, fire and smoke would be used to signal other towers like a sort of ancient alarm system."
Seven kilometers north of the Jiayuguan Pass lay another important scenic spot. The "Overhanging Great Wall". Built in 1539, the site got its name from the sheer drop along the slope.
In recent years, the local government has been working to promote tours to the site, recently even launching a TV competition to draw dozens of stations from China and abroad to focus their lenses on the spectacular sight. So soon, more people than ever may get a chance to see the site.

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