yongtai fortress gate china_

Life on the Edge of the Great Wall – Yongtai Fortress

Driving towards the silhouette of mountains – a long earth wall evolves into a massive fortress across the horizon.

Here in the ancient Silk Road corridor of China’s Gansu Province stands the 400 year-old fortress of Yongtai.


Yongtai Fortress – watch the VIDEO


Built – amazingly, in just 15 months from 1607-08 – during the Ming period Yongtai fort’s purpose was to protect Chinese settlements from northern nomadic raiders, such as the Mongols and Tartars.

Yongtai ancient city Gansu China known as the turtle shaped fortress
Scenes from Yongtai Fortress in Gansu – China. BELOW RIGHT: Yongtai is known as “the turtle shaped fortress” as seem from this aerial shot.

Apparently, according to a local – who claimed descendance from a “General” – the fort never saw military action; as a deterrent it proved effective. However, it did serve as a vast training ground for Ming troops.

Statistics reveal Yongtai Fortress had solid, compacted-earth walls reaching 12 meters high with foundations 6 meters deep, with the fortifications circling 1.7 kilometers.

Burial mound on grasslands beyond Yongtai Fortress (= walls visible as the yellow line on right side).

Double walls ringed the city gates – a common defensive strategy – and only after visitors had entered the outer enclosure, were the gates of the inner wall then opened.

Another defensive measure was the moat – a flow of water surrounding the fortress. Now dry, once it was filled with water diverted from a nearby ravine, running 6 meters wide and up to 2.5 meters deep.

locals of Yongtai fortress gansu china
ABOVE: Locals of Yongtai gathered to chat. Below: My wife – Wei.

Along the fortress walls, stood watchtowers and cannon ports (at this time China was the world leader in the use of gunpowder armaments).

Within the fort lived a garrison of 2000 foot soldiers and 500 cavalry (with 800 horses), along with the usual military facilities. And supplementing this were soldier’s families, food storage, grain mills, water reservoirs.

ABOVE: Flocks of goats and sheep were a frequent sight each morning and evening – leaving or entering the fort, stopping off at the pond. BELOW: Wandering the area, visiting a beacon tower and a dry riverbed behind Yongtai Fort.

Still visible across the landscape – from the nearby mountain range leading into the hazy horizon – beacon towers sent messages via smoke across vast distances to communicate to cities and sections of the Great Wall.

Today Yongtai is a tranquil, alluring ruin.

But it’s still living – some families remain, mostly middle-aged farmers raising sheep and goats.

Travels in China – 2020


ENJOY MORE

Receive my Quarterly Newsletter with exclusive updates, ebooks & other freebies from 30+ years of world travel adventures.

the candy trail crazy travel stories ebook
close

ENJOY MORE

Receive my Quarterly Newsletter with exclusive updates, ebooks & other freebies from 30+ years of world travel adventures.

the candy trail crazy travel stories ebook