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Section of the Great Wall at Shanhaiguan
|Literal meaning||"Mountain and Sea Pass"|
The Shanhai Pass known in Chinese as Shanhaiguan, also called the Yu Pass (simplified Chinese: 榆关; traditional Chinese: 榆關; pinyin: Yú Guān), is one of the major passes in the Great Wall of China, along with the Jiayu and Juyong Passes. The words "First Pass Under Heaven" (simplified Chinese: 天下第一关; traditional Chinese: 天下第一關; pinyin: Tiānxià Dìyī Guān) are engraved above one of the gates and so the site is also known by that name. It is located in Shanhaiguan District, Qinhuangdao, Hebei province. In 1961, the pass became a National Cultural Site of China. It is a popular tourist destination given its situation at the eastern end of the main line of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall. The location where the wall meets the Bohai Sea is nicknamed "Old Dragon's Head." The pass lies nearly 300 kilometres (190 mi) east of Beijing and is linked via the Jingshen Expressway that runs northeastward to Shenyang.
Located south of Yan Mountain, and north of the Bohai Sea, for centuries the pass guarded the narrow passage between Northeast and Central East China. Both the Northern Qi Dynasty and the Tang Dynasty constructed passes here. In 1381, Ming general Xu Da constructed the pass, which is named from its position between the mountains and the sea.
Later, Ming general Qi Jiguang began fortification and construction of a military city around the pass, building cities and forts to the east, south and north, making it one of the most heavily fortified passes in China. Today it is one of the best preserved passes in the Great Wall.
There are two accounts regarding the battle of Shanhaiguan at the end of the Ming Dynasty. The more popular romanticised version states that during the Ming Dynasty, general Wu Sangui was about to surrender and join the rebel forces of Li Zicheng when he heard that his concubine Chen Yuanyuan had been taken by Li. Enraged, and convinced the Ming were doomed, he decided to cast his lot with the invading Manchu. He contacted the Manchu leader Dorgon and as a result threw open the gates of Shanhaiguan to Manchu soldiers. Together Wu and the Manchus fought what has become known as the Battle of Shanhai Pass against Li Zicheng. The victory by the Manchus not only hastened the demise of rebel Li but also the Ming dynasty and firmly established the Manchus as the dominant power in China. The Manchus went onto create China's last dynasty, the Qing dynasty.
The second account of these events holds that Wu Sangui surrendered to Li, but on his way to Peking (Beijing), he learned of the disorderly state of the capital and of the massacres perpetrated by Li's forces, as well as the murder of his own father. Enraged, he returned to Shanhaiguan and surrendered to the Manchu leaders. Wu's forces then fought in the front lines against Li's forces, deceiving them into believing the Manchus had not broken through. As a result, Manchu forces decimated Li's forces, using a cloth attached to the uniforms of Sangui's troops as a way to differentiate friend from foe.
During the Qing era, the Shanhai Pass, situated between Shenyang and Beijing, was referred to as the "Key to the Capitals". During the Republican era, as well as during the Eight-Nation Alliance and World War II, the pass witnessed many conflicts.
The 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica noted:
SHANHAI-KWAN, a garrison town in the extreme east of the province of Chih-li, China. Pop. about 30,000. It is situated at the point where the range of hills carrying the Great Wall of China dips to the sea, leaving a kwon or pass of limited extent between China proper and Manchuria. It is thus an important military station, and the thoroughfare of trade between Manchuria and the great plain of China. The Imperial Northern railway from Tientsin and Taku, 174 m. from the former, runs through the pass, and skirts the shore of the Gulf of Liao-tung as far as the treaty port of Niu-chwang, where it connects with the railways leading from Port Arthur to the Siberian main line. The pass formed the southern limit of the Russian sphere of influence as defined in the convention between Great Britain and Russia of the 28th of April 1899.
In July 1904, 15,000 Japanese troops landed at Shanhai Pass, prior to marching on Peking to relieve the siege of the legations by the Boxers. A pre-landing bombardment of the area was unnecessary as few Chinese troops were present. Inter-allied relations were dealt a blow when a drunken fracas occurred at the Shanhai Pass between Japanese and French troops. In the fighting three French and seven Japanese soldiers were killed, and five French and 12 Japanese were wounded.
In November 1945, the North Eastern People's Liberation Army (PLA) attempted to hold Shanhaiguan against Guomindang forces attacking from the south. They sought to keep Chiang Kai-shek out of Manchuria. The PLA forces of 10,000 were under equipped and too few to defend the position and retreated to Siping.
The Shanhai Pass is built as a square, with a perimeter of around 4 kilometres (2.5 mi). The walls reach a height of 14 metres (46 ft), and are 7 metres (23 ft) thick. The east, south and north sides are surrounded by a deep, wide moat. There are drawbridges over the moat. In the middle of the pass stands a tall bell tower.
All four sides of the Shanhai Pass once possessed a gate or mén (门), with the Zhèndōng Mén (镇东门) in the East wall, the Yíngēn Mén ( 迎恩门) in the West, the Wàngyáng Mén (望洋门) in the South and the Wēiyuǎn Mén (威远门) in the North. Due to lack of repairs over the centuries, only the Zhendong Gate remains today. This was the most important gate due to its position, which faces outside the pass towards Beijing.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Shanhaiguan.|
- Photos of Shanhaiguan
- Great Wall of China Old dragon's head
- Illustrated Atlas of Shanhai, Yongping, Jizhou, Miyun, Gubeikou, Huanghua Zhen and Other Areas