One Beautiful Chinese Poem

Jun 09, 2022

One Beautiful Chinese Poem

The Poems of Yumen Pass

Isolated and bleak Yumen Pass inspired many old poems, of which Cool Province Words (凉州词) by Wang Zhihuan (王之涣) of the Tang Dynasty (618–907) stands out:

O Yellow River afar in white clouds arising,

A wall'ed fortress alone by vast peaks abiding.

O Qiang flute why poplar and willow a-whining,

Spring winds never pass Jade Gate Pass.






The Jade Gate Pass Great Wall Fort — Yumenguan Fort

Yumenguan ('Jade Gate Pass') served as a strategic fort along the ancient Silk Road. If you are really interested in Chinese history or the Silk Road, then the 3½-hour drive there from Dunhuang is worthwhile. The main things to see are the vastness of the desert scenery and a large gatehouse relic.

Quick Facts

Yumen Pass Gatehouse
The Yumen Pass Gatehouse relic
  • Chinese: 玉门关 Yùménguān /yoo-mnn-gwan/ 'Jade Gate Pass'
  • Location: 3½ hours northwest of Dunhuang (93 km), Jiuquan, Gansu
  • Gatehouse: rammed earth, roughly 25 x 27 x 9.7 m tall, built c. 121 BC
  • Activities: touring ruins and desert scenery, history appreciation
  • Best months to visit: early summer or fall

The History of Yumen Pass

This mountain pass was fortified by officials of Emperor Wudi (156–87 BC) of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD) about 121 BC, and used as a military garrison outpost. 

Aided Han Empire Expansion

Yumen Pass and Yang Pass, 60 km to the south on the opposite side of the desert valley, played a part in the Han's successful campaigns to defeat their enemies the Xiongnu (a Mongolia-based nomadic league of that time). The Han Empire doubled in size during Emperor Wudi's reign through the incorporation of this territory and others.

This fort and Yangguan controlled a vital pass in the great Gansu Corridor valley that stretched between Central Asia and the Han Empire, with giant mountain ranges north and south bordering the valley.

Yumen Pass helped defend Dunhuang from invasion from the northwest and helped bring prosperity.

A Silk Road Trade Post

The Silk Road at Dunhuang
Jade Gate Pass saw many camels and Silk Road traders.

Yumen Pass is thought to once have been a key military and mercantile installation for their empire, where the Han traded for products such as jade and horses with the locals and traders who traveled from Central Asia.

It is thought the fort helped to guard a market area. This lowland route was the main Silk Road trade and travel route in the Han Empire.

It was called Jade Gate Pass, as it was said that the jade from Hetian in Xinjiang was transported through Yumen Pass.

Later History

During the 5th century the fort was abandoned. It was rediscovered in 1944.

Jun 09, 2022