The Great Wall of China is a well-known monument that has witnessed centuries of civilization and dynasties. Part of this great structure is the Niangziguan Pass or the ‘Ninth Pass of the Great Wall of China’.
Located in the Pinding County of Shanxi Province about 45 kilometers northeast of the Yanquan City, this pass is in the foothills of Taihang Mountain, wedged right in the middle of the Huabei and Taiyuan Basins. It is strategically located between the borders of Hebei and Shanxi Provinces. The reason to build this pass was to fortify the castle of Niangziguan. This castle is built on the nearby high mountains. The River Taohe flows on the northwest side of the castle, while it faces a deep valley. Together with the deep valley, river and the pass, the Niangziguan Castle formed a tough fortification between the Hebei and Shanxi Province.
While the Great Wall passes through many provinces in China, its most important area lies in the northern frontier in the Shanxi Province, where it stretches to over 2000 miles. It is interesting to note that the entire wall was not made during a single dynasty, but many dynasties throughout the turn of the centuries built and added their contribution to this Great Wall. But why was it important for them? Looking back at the history, this area was always a battlefield of Huns who wanted to control the tribes that lived in Mongolia.
The wall was joined later and passes were built. Niangziguan Pass was part of this process.
Legend of the Niangziguan Pass
Formerly the Niangziguan Pass was known as Weizeguan or the Reed Swamp Pass. However, during the Tang Dynasty, it is said that Emperor Gaozu Li Yuan’s third daughter Princess Ping Yang personally commanded a battalion of women or ‘Niangziguan’ soldiers who stationed at the Weizeguan Pass. Since then the name of the place changed to Niangziguan Pass.
Princess Ping Yang was a daring young woman who helped her father raise an army of soldiers. With the help of money she recruited a large force of over seventy thousand soldiers and led them to join her brother Li Shimin in Weibei who was fighting to siege the capital. Ping Yang died in the battle, but was given an appropriate funeral just like that to a soldier. The king sent a drum corps of comprising of 40 people to play music during her funeral even though this wasn’t a part of ritual during a woman’s funeral during those times.
Features of the Niangziguan Pass
Earlier the Niangziguan Pass was divided into an eastern upper pass and a western lower pass. However, during the Ming Dynasty the pass was constructed all over again with two city gates. The eastern gate was built with the bricks, while the western gate was built with the limestone. Both the gates were arched. Over the arch of the eastern gate ‘Zhi Li Niang Zi Guan’ is etched, and over the arch of the western gate ‘Jing Ji Fan Ping’ is etched, on the tablets.
In modern China, this has become a heritage property and much restoration work is going on. Due to its surrounding attractive scenery, this place has been a destination of many tourist holidays. The underground water over here gushes out in the form of natural springs, which form an endless flow of water throughout the year. There are several scenic waterfalls around the Pass, and one of them ‘Shuiliandong’ is famous for forming a curtain over a cave.