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Located 11 kilometers away from the city center of Jiayuguan and 6.5 kilometers northwest of famous Jiayuguan Fort, Overhanging Great Wall, or Xuanbi Changcheng in Chinese, is a part of the Chinese Great Wall along with Badaling Great Wall, Mutianyu Great Wall, Simatai Great Wall, Jinshanling Great Wall, Huangyaguan Great Wall, Jianyuguan Great Wall and Juyongguan Great Wall.
It is also known as Badaling Great Wall of the West because of its great resemblance to Badaling Great Wall in Beijing. Overhanging Great Wall was initially built in 1539, during the reign of Emperor Jiajing of Tang Dynasty, and went under reconstruction in 1987 when sidesteps were added, in order to allow visitors climb up the wall, and two new observation decks were built on its both sides.
Things to do
Overhanging Great Wall was built as an extension of Jiayuguan Fortress and its original length used to be 1.5 kilometers, while width is around five meters. Made out of local gravel and yellow dirt and being built layer over layer, it consisted of the main path, the battlements and three watchtowers and was paved with three layers of brick. Unfortunately this material was weak against extreme weather conditions, as well as enemy attacks, so a big part of the wall has been damaged with only 750 meters surviving up to date.
The wall was built in order to support the already existing Jiayuguan Fort which held a key role in the defense mechanism of the area around Jiayuguan during Ming Dynasty. The fort was China’s first gate to the West and therefore was under great pressure from invaders, such as the Mongolians. Overhanging Great Wall was ingeniously erected on the eastern side of Heishan Mountain having the advantage of being hidden behind the mountain in the wet-east direction. Enemies would confidently cross the mountain, consuming vital energy and losing strength, only to come across the wall at the very last minute.
A 230 meter part of the wall is climbing on the north side of Heishan Mountain up to a height of 150 meters and with a gradient of 45 degrees. Seen from away this part of the wall resembles a dragon hanging over the mountain, explaining where its name comes from. The sight-seeing route begins at the foot of Heishan Mountain and goes up to the top of the hill.
However, parts of the path can be really steep and the way to the top includes 400 steps, so it is recommended only for visitors in good shape. The ones who do make it to the top will enjoy a bird’s eye view of endless Gobi desert, a couple of oases and snow-capped mountains seen from a great distance.