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山海关Shanhaiguan Pass, called 榆关Yuguan in the past, is in 河北省Hebei province, about 15 km. from 秦皇岛Qinhuangdao's city center. A strategic pass in the northeast since antiquity; its present fortress and Wall were built in the fourteenth year (1381) of the 洪武Hongwu reign during the 明朝Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) by the great general, 徐达Xu Da.  To its northwest lies the 燕山脉Yanshan mountain range, and to its east the 渤海Bohai Sea marks the end of land — thus, comes the name 山海关Shanhaiguan (Pass between Mountain and Sea).

Shanhaiguan has 4 gates, of which the most well-known and the most important is the town's east gate, called 镇东门Zhendongmen. But because poetics and drama stick to the populace more, this gate has since been known as "天下第一关城楼"(The First Pass Under Heaven Gate Tower) or simply the "第一关城楼"(The First Pass Gate Tower). This is due to the huge board hanging on the face of the gate tower with the four large characters "天下第一关"(First Pass Under Heaven) written by the Ming calligrapher 萧显Xiao Xian.  The gate walls are 14 meters high and 7 meters thick, and these surround an inner town with a perimeter of 4 kilometers. The Great Wall connects to The First Pass and runs 26 kilometers across the town and up the western hills, and links the 老龙头Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head) to the 渤海Bohai Sea in the east.

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NEW -- July 21, 2010

The beautiful city of Suzhou crisscrossed with narrow water canals

山海关,老龙头图片Shanhai Guan(Pass) and Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head Pictures

  • Picture of 山海关 - 天下第一关 (镇东门) Shanhaiguan Pass - First Pass Gate Tower (Zhendongmen Gate)

    The square area before the gate tower.

  • Picture of 山海关 - 天下第一关 (镇东门) Shanhaiguan Pass - First Pass Gate Tower (Zhendongmen Gate)

    On the face of the grand 镇东门Zhendongmen tower is the written these large black characters: 天下第一关 (The First Pass Under Heaven).

  • Picture of 山海关 - 天下第一关 (镇东门) Shanhaiguan Pass - First Pass Gate Tower (Zhendongmen Gate)
  • Picture of 山海关 - 天下第一关 (镇东门) Shanhaiguan Pass - First Pass Gate Tower (Zhendongmen Gate)

    The wide square before 天下第一关 (The First Pass Under Heaven) gate tower.

  • Picture of 山海关 Shanhaiguan Pass

    A corner of the fortress.

  • Picture of 山海关 - 城楼 Shanhaiguan Pass - Gate Tower

    On the top level of the fortress.

  • Picture of 山海关 Shanhaiguan Pass

    A view below the Wall.

  • Picture of 山海关 - 湖,园 Shanhaiguan Pass - Lake and Park

    The lake and garden inside the fortress.

  • Picture of 山海关 Shanhaiguan Pass

    The Wall stretches quite far through the town, but most are in ruins and covered with thick vegetation. These unrestored parts are blocked with walls, so one cannot get through.

  • Picture of 山海关 Shanhaiguan Pass

    On top of one stretch of the Wall extending from the gate tower.

  • Picture of 山海关 Shanhaiguan Pass

    Detail of the Wall's parapet, an architectural design meant for the bow and the crossbow.

  • Picture of 老龙头 - 城楼 Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head) - Tower

    The tower overlooking the Dragon Head and the 渤海Bohai sea.

  • Picture of 老龙头 - 亭 Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head) - Pavillion

    A gallery of stone tablets. An important original piece is housed inside a pavillion.

  • Picture of 老龙头 Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head)

    The Dragon stretches its Head into the 渤海Bohai sea.

  • Picture of 老龙头 Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head)

    A viewing area a few steps below the Dragon Head.

  • Picture of 老龙头 Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head)

    The Old Dragon Head had been reconstructed in eighties. These are Ming stones of the original Dragon Head on display right on the structure.

  • Picture of 老龙头 Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head)

    Side view of the Dragon Head.

  • Picture of 老龙头 Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head)

    Side view of the Dragon Head as it enters the sea.

  • Picture of 老龙头 Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head)
  • Picture of 老龙头 Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head)
  • Picture of 老龙头 Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head)

    From the shore looking toward the temple complex.

  • Picture of 老龙头 - 石碑 Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head) - Stone Tablet

    A large stone tablet before the entrance to the temple complex. The burden of carrying the heavy stone usually goes to the unlucky tortoise. Temple (usually Daoist) are normally built near important sections of the Great Wall

  • Picture of 老龙头 - 庙 Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head) - Temple

    A stone bridge leads to the entrance gate of the temple complex.

  • Picture of 老龙头 - 庙(天后宫) Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head) - Temple

    Courtyard of the temple complex.

  • Picture of 老龙头 - 走廊 Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head) - Corridor

    The long corridor around the temple complex.

  • Picture of 老龙头 - 走廊 Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head) - Corridor

    The long corridor around the temple complex.

  • Picture of 老龙头 - 亭 Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head) - Pavillion

    The grand pavillion extending out from the temples toward the sea.

image of stone lion

The stone lions, chimeras, toistoises and unicorns that guarded the royal tombs of the 六朝Six Dynasties Era for the past 1600 years.

image of people on a boat in the Three Gorges area of the Changjiang river area

See the 三峡Three Gorges of the 长江Changjiang (Yangzi River) between 重庆市Chongqing city and 宜昌Yichang.

trucks on the desert road

Pictures I took while on a bus traveling through the sandy deserts of 甘肃Gansu on my way to 嘉峪关Jiayuguan.

image of a group of Mongolian gersimage of dunes near Baotou city

Enjoy the wide 希拉穆仁草原Xilamuren grassland, the huge dunes of 响沙湾Xiangshawan, and the ancient Wall of the Qin state in 内蒙古Neimenggu (Inner Mongolia).

Travelogues and travel notes.

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老龙头Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head) is about 4 kilometers south of Shanhaiguan. The "Dragon's Head" refers to the group of structures that converges on the 渤海Bohai Sea. The most dramatic is the section that enters the water, called “入海石城”(The Stone Fort Entering the Sea). As I stood on the shore observing its profile, I thought: Old Dragon's Head — the ancient mythological beast's long jaw, knotty forehead and scaled neck reveals itself as it slowly submerges and retires to the sea. After tens of thousands of li — from its desert tail end in the western China crawling through mostly barren highllands and wastelands, then descending toward east, winding through its rolling green hills and craggy mountains — its solemn head finally reaches into water and urges for the depth of the sea.

戚继光Qi Jiguang, the Ming army general of the area (then called 蓟镇Jizhen) directed the construction of Laolongtou during the worthless 万历Wanli reign. It was built with much difficulites: when the tide subsided, the entire army worked rapidly stacking the stones, but then the tides soon returned, destroying much of work; this went back and forth til the work was completed. The structure was restored several times during the 清朝Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). During the 1980s, Dragon Head was entirely reconstructed according to old records. Some pieces of the original stones were incorporated back into the construction. Other pieces are on display on the top level of the Dragon Head.

After visiting The First Pass gate tower, I went into the nearby Shanhaiguan Great Wall Museum. Besides the panaramic view of many sections of the Great Wall, there is an excellent collection of early gun-powered weapons used on the Wall: the first cannons made out of stones and cast iron; and the proto rifles and handguns, which would eventually evolved into the first true handguns. Anyone visiting Shanhaiguan should drop in this museum for a look.  

trucks on the desert road

Pictures I took while on a bus traveling through the sandy deserts of 甘肃Gansu on my way to 嘉峪关Jiayuguan.

Travel Information

Getting There:

Getting to Shanhaiguan: At the time I headed down to 山海关Shanhaiguan from 沈阳市Shenyang city by rail. The Pass is a district of 秦皇岛Qinhuangdao, and it has its own station. It is a short ride from Qinhuangdao city and about 3 hours ride from 北京Beijing. Shanhaiguan's gate towers are visible from the train station. Buses from Qinhuangdao city will also get here. Once in the town, the walled towers are usually within sight. If not, local buses will stop near it.  It's bus stop has its alto ego stamped on it: 第一关站First Pass Stop. Get off and walk to the entrance. If this is the stop on the highway (if I remember correctly, it cuts through the town. This is the same road that leads to the Old Dragon's Head site in the east by the Bohai sea.) there is about ten minutes walk to the towers and ticket office.

Getting to Laolongtou (Old Dragon's Head): Although the Pass and the Old Dragon's Head were built and linked together (I believe it is still physically linked together through one continuous wall, but much of the walls are overgrown with vegetation and its passages are walled with bricks, so one cannot walk from the Pass to the Dragon's Head. If you are interested in finding out, like I did, you may walk to its open limit and will be stopped by a brick wall.) To get to 老龙头Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head): From the Shanhaiguan town take #25lu (road) public bus (Y1), which will get there in 10-15 minutes. the entrance and the ticket office is in the back, close to the waters. But beware: the large area that you will enter once you are off the bus will have a few gimmick sites that shows nothing of historical value. They may pretend to be part of Laolongtou and lure people to its ticket office. There is only one ticket office for Old Dragon's Head. The officialness of the ticket office can usually be told by the numerous plaques on its walls, and the indifferences of the staffs. They won't come out to grap you in.

Accomodations:

There are a lot of expensive hotels as well as cheap guesthouses outside the Walled town.

Entrance Ticket:

山海关Shanhaiguan (Ticket on left) and 老龙头Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head) entrance tickets

40 yuan for Shanhaiguan. Includes entrance to the Shanhaiguan Great Wall Museum. Y50 for Laolongtou (Old Dragon Head). (summer 2006)