765km (474m) NW of Lanzhou, 383km (237m) E of Dunhuang
At the northwest end of the narrow He Xi corridor lies a fort that marks the western extremity of the Ming Great Wall. During the Ming dynasty, Jiayu Guan was regarded as the end of the Chinese world, beyond which lay the strange lands and peoples of the western lands. Just as transportation to Australia struck fear into Britons, exile ranked just behind decapitation and death by strangulation in the Qing penal code. Many common criminals passed through the gates of Jiayu Guan, but so did victims of court intrigues, such as commissioner Lin Zexu (1785-1850), who tried to suppress the opium trade in Guangzhou (Canton) but found himself banished to Yining. The only people regarded as less fortunate were those who built the Ming Wall. Its construction was estimated to have claimed eight million lives -- one life for every yard. Jiayu Guan today is a quiet and semiprosperous steel town. It's worthwhile to spend a day here to visit the fort.