Yumen Pass (Jade Gate Pass)
Yumen Pass (Jade Gate Pass), situated 75 km northwest of Dunhuang, was a strategic pass on the ancient Silk Road. It was the Han Dynasty’s equivalent of the last petrol station before a long stretch of road. It was named because of the jade that was transported through this pass to central China. Little Square City is another name for this site and the origin of this name comes from a rare square piece of jade that was sent through this pass from the west to the Han emperor in the east.
Today, there are two yellow clay gates at the western and northern sides of the pass. Unfortunately, some parts of the walls have collapsed due to erosion, forming huge holes.
In his poem “North of the Great Wall”, the Tang Dynasty poet Wang Zhihuan wrote the famous line, “Beyond the Yumen Pass the breath of spring has never crossed". The mention of Yumen in the poem has made the pass all the more desirable and exotic as a destination.
Further north of Dunhuang, in the Gobi desert, is a section of the Han dynasty Great Wall that originally stretched for 150km. In one beacon tower, which were used as signaling stations, Han dynasty writings on bamboo, thought to be letters, official documents and the ancient equivalent of wanted posters were found amongst the ashes. Mirages can also be seen on extremely hot days when out in the desert.