Shanhaiguan is a small, sleepy town and port of the northern section of the Bohai gulf, holding the access between northeast China and north China. Shanhai Pass, 15 kilometers from the tourist city of Qinhuangdao, got its name from being situated between the Yanshan Mountains and the Bohai Sea.
Built in 583, it was renovated throughout various dynasties until it was transformed into a formidable military stronghold during the Ming Dynasty.
As the strategic passage between the north and northeast China, this pass has been a bone of contention for military strategists since the ancient times. It is also considered the No.1 pass of the Great Wall and the key to the defense of two ancient capitals - Beijing in the east and Chang'an (Xian) in the west. Shanhai Pass is a national tourist attraction and the first strategic pass at the eastern end of the Great Wall.
Shanhaiguan Pass consists of a main castle, two supporting castles one in the north and one in the south, and two semicircular protective walls in front of the main castle, the town of Weiyuan and the town of Ninghai.
Today most of these structures are still well preserved, while others, such as the wall of Ninghai, the Calm Sea Tower built on the town wall and the Laolongtou Great Wall, where the Great Wall meets the sea, have been restored. The brick wall of the pass, stuffed with earth, is 14 meters high, seven meters wide and four kilometers in circumference. It is connected with the Great Wall which stretches onto the rolling Yanshan Mountains in the north and into the Bohai Sea in the south with parts and battlements that form a strong and powerful defense system.
On the east gate of the city wall stands a tower hung with a horizontal inscribed board reading: 'The First Pass under the Heaven'. The bold characters written in vigorous strokes make the pass look even more magnificent. The Gate Tower houses an exhibition of ancient military uniforms and weapons including a saber that weighs 83 kilos, the heaviest in the country. Once you ascend the tower and take a broad view afar, the serried battlements and the rising mist will take you back to the ancient battlefields of a thousand years ago.
Beyond the Shanhaiguan Pass, the Great Wall stretches eastward until it dips into the sea at a place called Laolongtou (Old Dragon's Head). Tourist attractions in the vicinity include the Jiaoshan Section which has the Great Wall meandering along the mountain ridges, Shanhaiguan Great Wall Museum which has some interesting pictures, relics and clothes depicting the life story of this snaking construction, and a temple dedicated to Meng Jiangnu, one of China's devoted heroines.
Admission fee: 40 yuan
Opening hours: 08:10 to 16:00
Views and Attractions:
The huge plaque hanging on the tower; climbing up to the second floor of the tower visitors can see nearby towers, called ' Weiyuantang Tower', ' Jingbianlou Tower', ' Muyinglou Tower' and ' Linlvlou Tower' respectively, making up the, ' Five Tigers Holding the Guandong Region'. The Great Wall Museum under the Pass displays all kinds of archeological data, documents, photographs and exhibits.
Services: Various kinds of traveling craftworks can be purchased in the street below the First Pass under Heaven. "Tianwailou Restaurant" provides local dishes and is an arranged tourism restaurant.
Two nearby places of interest to include in your visit to Shanhaiguan are: Laolongtou (Old Dragon's Head), and Temple of Mengjiangnu
(travelchinaguide.com July 25, 2007)