The earliest historical mentions of place now known as Zhangjiakou dates back well over two millenia. As recorded and preserved in Chinese Tombs, maps and writings, in the so-called Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC - 476 BC) which led to the final demise of the Zhou Dynasty (1121 BC - 255 BC), the northern parts of the current day Prefecture of Zhangjiakou were grasslands claimed by the mighty and notorious Huns, a pre-Mongolian nomadic tribe of now legendary military prowess. At the same, the Southern parts of today's Zhangjiakou Prefecture was a territory claimed by the early Chinese Yan Kingdom. At the very end of this "Warring States Period" all seperate Kingdoms and States had been conquered by the militarily strong state of Qin uniting them into what is held to be the first ever united Chinese State with a centrally administered system. In the process, where today's Zhangjiakou was previously part of Yan, where it was a border town, it was now part of the Chinese Qin Empire. The Qin Era, although very brief left a lasting imprint on Zhangjiakou and its prefecture.
Hebei Province Map 2 - Schematic Map - Large
A schematic overview of North-East China's Hebei Province entire, delineating Provincial Borders and parts of neighboring Shanxi-, LiaoNing- and Shandong Provinces and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The Map clearly marks the location of Qinhuangdao and gives an overview of the remaining Great Wall sections in the surrounding regions.
China Report - Map of the Great Wall during the Ming Dynasty
Satellite image of China and North-East Asia, with a super-imposed schematic Map of the location and Path of the Great Wall as constructed during the Reign of the Ming Dynasty. Included for reference are City names, geographical features of landscape, Names and locations of Passes on the Great Wall of China.
Map Great Wall China - Layers of Dynasties and Era's
A Schematic Map of China and East-Asia, with a super-imposed schematic of the various layers of the Great Wall of China.
Features Pre-Qin Dynasty Wall, Qin Dynasty Wall, Western Han Great Wall of China, the (Northern) Jin Dynasty Great Wall and finally the Ming Dynasty Great Wall as mainly remains today.
Main Features are Names and locations location of Passes on the Great Wall of China, outer layer and inner layer. Includes Shanhai Pass, Huangya Guan (Yellow Cliff) Pass, JiYunGuan Pass, Ningwu Guan Pass, Pingxin Guan, YaMen Guan Pass, Pian Guan Pass, JiaYuGuan pass, YuMen Guan Pass (Jade Gate) and Yang Guan Pass.
Further included for reference are City names, geographical features of landscape and main mountain ranges. Updates occur several times a year adding new pass locations and photo-virtual tours of Passes throughout China.
The finding of historic remnants of both Pre-Qin Dynasty Era and Qin Dynasty Era (221 BC - 207 BC) defensives walls very near current day Zhangjiakou, gives proof that in the time just before
Schematic Map of the Main Ducal States during the Warring States Period. As depicted several States have built defensive walls along borders, the later foundations of the Qin Dynasty Great Wall of China (Wanli Chang Cheng)..
and during the reign of Emperor Qin Kalgan was already border station and likely a trading town as well. As legend has it, during the shortlived reign of the now vilified Emperor Qin (Reign: King of the State of Qin from 246 BC to 221 BC and Emperor of Qin 221 BC - 207 BC), the various Walls of China were supposedly unified for the first time, making of Zhangjiakou a true Pass City of the Great Wall of China. This was however but a brief and early moment of glory as it said that most of the Qin Dynasty Wall crumpled into dust within a few decades.
Between the years 386 AD and 534 AD, most of today's north China (P.R.C.) fell under the sway of the powerful Tuoba Wei or Northern Wei Dynasty. Initially, the Northern Wei Capital was situated at Datong in northern Shanxi Province and due west of Zhangjiakou. However, in the year 494 AD the northern Wei Capital was moved southward to Luoyang (in current day Henan Province) a safer location across the Yellow River (Huang He).
Another historic mention comes many centuries later when it is recorded that what today is the southern Zhangjiakou Region had been divided into two shires by the rulers of the Sui Dynasty (581 AD - 618 AD) and has brought into the administrative system of the central regime of China.
the subsequent fragmentation of the central Chinese Empire the northern regions fell out of Chinese control. In the beginning of the tenth century the Khitan People, moved out of their pasturelands in Mongolia heading for territories in the Bohai Sea regions of northern China (the north China plain). In 907 AD, the established their Capital in what today is the city of Beijing. In so doing, Beijing became an Imperial Capital for the first time (Read more in: "History of Beijing (Part 1 to 4)" or "History of the Yellow River (1 to 9)".
Between the years 1000 and 1009 AD, the Khitan Liao Dynasty (契丹國 ; 907 AD - 1125 AD) further expanded its influence over northern China, decisively defeating Song Armies in current day Hebei Province (Hopeih) and neighboring Shanxi Province. As a result the regions in which today lies the city of Zhangjiakou felt under the sway of the previously nomadic Khitan people, who nevertheless adopted various Chinese cultural traits, script and technical knowhow. Thereafter the Khitans reigned for another century leaving various Temples and Pagoda's in the regions (Beijing, Datong, etc) as a reminder of their achievements. Ultimately however, the Liao Dynasty was destroyed by another arising tribe, the Jurchen people of the Jin Dynasty who took the Liao Dynasty Capital at Beijing in the year 1125 AD. With the Jin capture of Liao Emperor Tianzuo the Liao Dynasty formally ended, however, remnants of its people, led by one Yelü Dashi, fled westward and eventually established the Western Liao Dynasty, also known as the Kara-Khitan Khanate, which ruled over parts of Central Asia for almost a century before being conquered by the Mongolian armies of the legendary Genghis Khan. At the same time, the Song Dynasty held on to more southern territories while the Tanguts (Chinese: Xixia = Western Sunrise) ruled in Ningxia (The Ningxia Plain of the Yellow River), Inner Mongolia, parts of Gansu and other western lands.
After the demise of the Liao Dynasty Zhangjiakou lay in the nortern territories which had been joined under the Jin Dynasty (1115 AD - 1234 AD). In August of the year 1211, in what has become known as the "Badger's Mount Campaign", Mongolian leader Genghis Khan led a 90,000 strong force southward to the border at Zhangjiakou in order to attack and crush the Chinese Jin Dynasty. Breaking through or simply bypassing the Jin Dynasty versions of Great Wall defenses the highly mobile Mongolian troops destroyed the 450,000 strong Jin Dynasty army on their way to further conquests in China and throughout Asia. It was the historical incident that earned the Zhangjiakou its Mongolian nickname as "Heaven's Gate", for beyond lay the untold riches of the Chinese farmers with their sedentary lifestyle and their cities filled with gold and wealth. To the often destitute Mongolian Nomads it was indeed a "Golden Gate". The capture of Zhangjiakou in this campaign was only the beginning of a lenghty war in which the Mongolians would eventually conquer all of the Chinese Culture territories, establishing the Yuan Dynasty in 1271 AD with its Capital at Khanbalik (Also: Dadu ; Beijing).
Zhangjiakou in the Ming Dynasty:
In the year 1368 AD the Mongolians of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 AD - 1368 AD) were driven out of China and pushed beyond the psychologically important line of the Great Wall of China, allowing for Zhu Yuanzhang the leader of the Ming (and Red Turban) Rebellion to establish the Ming Dynasty. Although, initially the focus of the new rulers lay in establishing firm control of the Chinese heartlands and the first Ming Capital was established in Nanjing in southern Jiangsu Province, it was during the Ming Dynasty Era (1368 AD - 1644 AD) when Zhangjiakou for the first time gained a true prominence as part of the heavily fortified border and the Great Wall of China as we know it today.
Although not much is known about Zhangjiakou specifically in this period, it is well known that after the Ming Armies had defeated a last important Mongolian stand at the Jiayuguan Pass of the Great Wall in the far west (current day Gansu Province), the borderlands with Mongolia became the scene of many a battle. While the war on the remaining Mongolian forces was still active and the front still fluctuated a number of border stations were heavily fortified against a return of the Mongolian threat. Later on, throughout the various reigns of the Ming Era, the defenses of these border stations would be further improved upon, creating over the centuries the supposedly continuous stone wall that has become precious world heritage today.
As for the case of Zhangjiakou, in the first reign period of the Ming Dynasty (Hongwu Reign ; Zhu Yuanzhang, 1368 AD - 1398 AD) it became an integrated part of the Ming Empire as part of the all important Northern fiefdom of Yan.This name, based upon the ancient knowledge that once during the Warring Nations Period, the regions had been known as the Chinese Kingdom of Yan, became the personal realm and exclusive operating base of the "Prince of Yan", who was none less than the Prince Zhu Di. The Prince, keeping his Capital only some 200 kilometers from Zhangjiakou, at Beijing, and being well versed in the dangers of the Mongolian threat, set to work inproving the defenses of his realm almost immediatly. Naturally, this included the strategic town of Zhangjiakou, the notorious Heaven's Gate. No specific data is available on the town in this period but it was in this time that the foundation of the extensive defenses around Zhangjiakou were designed and built. That is; the next 80 years large sums of money and human effort were expended renovating the old Qin, Northern Wei and Northern Qi walls in the area and making them of solid stone. In addition entirely new sections were added where earlier defenses had failed or were perceived as weak.
It would go to far to repeat all of the history of that crucial period here, however after the death of Zhu Yuanzhang in 1398 AD, a civil war soon erupted, with two main rival princes vying for the Throne of the Ming Empire. In the south seated in the Capital Nanjing this was the true and legal Emperor, Zhu Yunwen (Jianwen Reign 1398 AD - 1402 AD) a Grandson of Zhu Yuanzang. In the north however, one of the immediate Sons of the dceased Emperor, Zhu Di - the Prince of Yan, militarily a strong competitor -, arose in rebellion.
In short, the rightful successor of Zhu Yuanzhang was disposed of by military means and in the year 1402 AD the Prince of Yan managed to usurp the Throne, gaining political and military control of a now restless but solidified Ming Realm.
Subsequently, the new Yongle Emperor, the northern Prince Zhu Di, apparently found his new Capital a place to uncomfortable and too unsafe for a prolonged stay and succesful rule and a momentous plan was set up to return him and his entire Government to his northern base in Beijing.
Naturally, it was giant project to move a Capital. The rebuilding of Beijing into what was to become the largest and most beautiful Capital City and Imperial Palace in all the world took almost twenty years, being completed in the year 1420 AD and officially opened on the first day of the Lunar New Year of 1421 AD. With the completion of the national Capital of the Chinese Ming Dynasty at only some 200 kilometers away and with it the birth of the "Forbidden City" Palace, Zhangjiakou truly became a "Heaven's Gate" starting it off on path a rising military and economic importance.
The first version of the Dajing Men of the Great Wall of China in Zhangjiakou was built in the year 1458 AD during the Shunzi Reign of the Ming Dynasty. Founded upon remains of an earlier Great Wall of China constructed during the Northern Wei and Northern Qi (386 AD - 577 AD) Dynasties, the 9 meter wide gate formed the outer and front line gate of the Pass City and the "Middle Kingdom".
- Under Editing -
The year 1571 AD was crucial year in the history East Asia, as the Ming of China finally made a sort of peace with the Mongolian tribes immediatly outside the Great Wall, the Tuumed's led by their Altan Khan. For the Chinese this one decision and change of policy ended a troubled time of high military investments and recurring Mongolian Invasions. And for the Mongolian Khan it rewarded him substantial economic rewards and an alternative to the desperate lifestyle of raiding. The peace was brokered by making trade, which in the end was far prefered over a costly perpetual state of warfare and perhaps envy.
By finally granting the Altan Khan and his subjects the long standing wish of being allowed to trade across the borderline of the Great Wall an enterily new era, one of trade and prosperity was ushered in, not only in the Chinese Empire, but in Mongolia, in Tibet and other regions far beyond.
In that year, the first of four so called "Horse Markets" were established along the length of the Great Wall, in the regions adjoining the territories of the Altan Khan and his clan. The 4 horse markets were Kalgan (Zhangjiakou), Datong, Yulin in Shaanxi in Xuanfu near Tibetan area's in Gansu in the far West.
Dynasty court hoped to reach Chengde (Jehol) the location of the Manchu Fleeing the Heat Mountain Villa (Bishu Shanzhuang) which usually served as a sort of secondary Capital. However, hearing rumors of alien troops traveling on interception course to cut off the flight path, the party made a turn around at Zhangjiakou, subsequently heading to Xi'An, the ancient Capital of China along the Wei River in Shaanxi Province. Eventually the Empress-Dowager would spend a year at the Huaqing Palace at Lintung near Xi'An, after which she would make a triumphant return to her ancient Capital. All the time the Guangxu Emperor was towed along.
After the dismal defeat the Boxer Rebellion, the burning of the Yuanming Yuan Palace (Garden of Perfect Brightness), the plunder of the city of Beijing and its Forbidden City and further humiliations of the Chinese in the Boxer War (1900 AD - 1901 AD) Foreign dominance of China was nearly complete. In all but name China had become of shared Colony of the Foreigners.
With the Empress-Dowager returned to the Capital and forced to communicate with the various overseas parties interested in dividing up China and distributing its resources across the world, the way was finally made for reforms that had been blocked by the Chinese Court (the Empress-Dowager) from the get-go.
Schematic overview Map of the Area's of North-East China overtaken by the Yi Ho Tuan Movement (The "Boxers").
In the aftermath of the Boxer War, the foreigners, operating from within the safety of their extra-territorial zones within the Beijing Legations - an exclusive diplomatic zone within the City Walls of the Capital - and the nearby Port and Banking Center of Tianjin, gained unprecedented access to and influence within Chinese Territories.
While the Beijing Legations thrived as never before in complete denial of the latest Chinese attempt to expell the Foreigners, now throughly hated, many of those seeking fortune built upon the new influx of foreign investment money and the opportunities provided by the failing of power of the Dynasty.
Although counted as yet another much lamented episode of modern Chinese History, the final eroding of Central Powers (as provided by the Qing Dynasty) did also provide the first opportunity for the Chinese Nation to modernize. The shackles applied by the now seemingly irrational conservatism of the Qing Court had been broken, giving way to opportunity for the many reform minded within the Nation. The newly arisen situation immediatly lead an enormous economic boom.
The first aspects of the modernizations were the appearance of western technologies, including the highly visible railroads. With the Capital of Beijing and the port city of Tianjin - the new Banking Capital of the north-east - already connected before the Boxer Rebellion inflamed the nation, afterwards the next step in the economic development and the opening up of the heartlands was the extension of railroads beyond the Capital. These railroads mainly served for the transport of heavy goods and also for military purposes, and so almost naturally among the first new railway lines to be built was a line leading from Beijing to the mineral rich border town and military garrison of Zhangjiakou (Kalgan), the Pass City of the Great Wall of China.
The Imperial Peking–Kalgan Railway (now the "Jingzhang" Railway) was constructed between 1905 AD and 1909 AD. The line became available in October of 1909.
All previous lines, including the line(s) to Beijing were in effect owned and operated by Foreign conglomerates from various Nationalities such as Japanese, Russian, British. American, French, German and others, and had been built to support the Foreigners in their military advances and inititial economic exploitations of the Chinese Nation. As a result, the Foreign owned lines mainly connected between the main population and economic centers along the coastline and Chinese involvement or control was none existent.
The Zhangjiakou-Beijing line however was an entirely new kind of line as the Beijing-Zhangjiakou railway line was the first ever all Chinese designed and constructed railway in China. Based purely upon Chinese National interests it was built order to gain access to the coal deposits found around Kalgan and enhance communications with what was still the de facto Chinese border station on the Mongolian Border.
In its time to conquer the mountainous ring north of the Capital with a railroad was a formidable achievement, in hindsight revealing a first glimpse of the Chinese nation eager and able to advance on their own terms.
As a result of its history, today, although having become part of the much longer Jinzang Railway and extended to Baotou in Inner-Mongolia (Autonomous Region), the spectacular route of the Beijing to Zhangjiakou is still hailed as the "Father of all Railway Lines" in China and offers one of the most interesting train rides available in all of North China.
The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica noted that, in Kalgan, "the ordinary houses have an unusual appearance, from the fact that they are mostly roofed with earth and become covered with green-sward" and that "on the way to Peking the road passes over a beautiful bridge of seven arches, ornamented with marble figures of animals".
In 1927, the text that currently decorates the lintel of the Gate to the Great Territory (Dajing Men) was applied. Translated into English it says "Beautiful Mountains and Rivers". This text was written by the local warlord and last "President" or Governor of the Hopei-Chahar region, Gao Weiyue.
The inscription, in bold, vigorous brushwork, and the nearby inscription by Zhang Zizhong dating to the year 1697 AD and the Kangxi Reign of the Qing Dynasty (1661 AD - 1722 AD) proclaiming "Both Sides of the Great Wall Have Been United" on the cliff are held to set off each other wonderfully, as if together they compose a poem, a fact much hailed by the Chinese and the ever present tour guides.
ZHANGJIAKOU DURING THE QING DYNASTY (1644 AD - 1911 AD):
In the year 1697 AD, Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty (Reign 1661 AD - 1722 AD) personally led an army northward from his Capital on a large scale military expedition. The massive expedition aimed at subduing the west-Mongolian Tribes of the Khan Galdan Danzin Boshogtu and the subsequent victories, led the Manchu Armies as far north and west as Khovd (the Capital of current day Khovd Aimag in the Republic of Mongolia). The resulting territorial gains were staggering and in the process, the borders
In 1900 AD Kalgan lay on the flight route of the Empress-Dowager Cixi and her captive, the Guangxu Emperor. Fleeing Beijing after a foreign invasion by the 7 allied Colonialist nations the core of the Qing
The oldest available "Image" of Kalgan is officially dated to the year 1698 AD and can be seen adjacent. It is a drawing which was clearly not created by a Chinese but rather a European artists. The depicted image is taken from a Russian book printed in the year 1698, however this does not mean that was it was made by a Russian traveler. Possibly, given the style and form, the artist was one of the Jesuit Priests, who - through the favors of the Kangxi Emperor - fulfilled important functions at the Qing Court. As master map makers, mathematicians and astronomers, it is known that the Kangxi Emperor obliged the Jesuits to travel along on his expeditions which should have given them the opportunity to survey some of the most important features of the north eastern border area's. The arduous travels on horseback proved quite exhausting as Ferdinand Verbiest experienced and the months away from the Capital posed serious problems regarding the performance of court tasks such as the determining of the (correct) lunar calendar. It is also known that, due to their European origins as well as
The 1698 AD "First" Image of the city of Kalgan clearly shows a city with massive walls. In the forefront a Camel (and trader) seem to be depicted.
their language skills, the Jesuits had been important in the communications and negotiations with the arriving Russians of various sorts. Although the flourishing cross border trade with the Russians was well appreciated and economically of crucial importance, at the same time it was found that Russians often flagranty infringed upon perceived Chinese territorial rights in the very large border territories. Hence, for both purposes frequent diplomatic contact between the two sides was considered of the utmost importance, at least by the Chinese.
Already in 1656 AD, the first Russian Diplomatic Mission had been sent to Beijing in order to establish peaceful contacts with the Chinese, however, as Russian colonial conquests continued up north in Siberia and in regions along the Amur river considered to be the sovereign Manchu territory of the Qing Dynasty, the first Russian attempts were not welcomed outright at the Chinese Court. Two more Russian "Embassy Missions" failed before eventually, in 1676 AD, the first Russian Ambassador (Moldave N.G. Spathar) made it to Beijing. Upon his arrival and the taking up of official negotiations between the two parties China and Russia the leading Jesuit at Court, Ferdinand Verbiest, was made his interpreter and translator. Although this is not entirely certain, the image from the Russian book was likely copied from one of the now legendary World Maps made by the Jesuits earlier in the 16th and 17th Centuries. In 1674 AD the most recent such map had been created and by 1676 AD it had been reproduced by wood block printing and presented to the Kangxi Emperor by the Jesuits. The various Jesuit maps (the first one created by Matteo Ricci) introduced hitherto unheard of knowledge into the Chinese mind and after their creation, the maps were widely used, reproduced and circulated.
Furthermore, it is known that after his return to Russia, Russian Emmisary Spathar set to work on the creation of a first Russian made map of the now contested Mongolian and Kalmuk border area's. Altogether Spathar wrote 3 books on his adventures in China, and in these he made use of a Jesuits Map taken from the "Atlas Sinensis", published by P. Martini in Amsterdam in the year 1665 AD. As a result, the image of Kalgan presented in the Russian book has clearly recognizable western European features that have been sinisized in order to fit the exotic location and scenery (The attempt did not come off well). (The specific image of Kalgan in 1698 AD may be taken from the 1655 AD Amsterdam published map or a later Jesuits created map)
In 1709 AD the Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty (Reign 1661 AD - 1722 AD) keeping an eye on territorial incursions by Russians arriving from the North, led an expedition through the area and camped his army at Kalgan (Kyoto in Manchu terms). However, as the legend goes it was in the middle of the night, way after curfew. With the invasion on everyone was on their guard and hence the Dajing Gate of the city was closed and no one would open it. Later, the Emperor's subsequent forced camp-out was commemorated with the construction of the Reclining Dragon Pavilion (the Dragon symbolic for the Emperor) in the area outside the gate.
Early in the 19th century, the town of Zhangjiakou was the seat of a very extensive transit trade between Mongolia and Russia on the one side and Beijing in China on the other. Suddenly, Zhangjiakou was a boom town and as the saying went at the time among Russian traders: a man who had made it to Zhangjiakou (Known by the Russians as Kalgan) had arrived in China.
It was the highpoint of caravan trade on the "Tea Road" although by that time many other items and products were traded as well. After the summer heat had dissipated and the rainy season had passed, in early autumn the Camel caravans would start their seasonal journey into Central Asia. At this time of the year, long lines of camels would come in from all surrounding territories at Zhangjiakou, where they were then gathered into huge groups which traveled in steps on to Kyakhta. From Kyaktha, the camels would return with Russian and other goods destined for China. Altogether, during the fall and winter each caravan made an average of three journeys.
As a result of its importance, there were even some Russian migrants, who as is reported had taken up permanent residences and warehouses just outside the gate and city walls.
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that had once been created by the presence of the Great Wall of China were wiped out, erased or at least drastically reduced.
In the aftermath of the battles which established substantial Manchu and Chinese military bases within Mongolian territories, the Emperor returned home triumphantly. On their way back to the Capital the army passed back through the Da Jing Gate of Great Wall at Zhangjiakou. As a celebration and in order to instill the defeat and momentous shift of powers across the Mongolian Steppes into the public memory a local scribe, one Zhang Zizhong, was asked to write a commemorative text meaning "Both Sides of the Great Wall Have Been United". This short but very appropriate text sums up the incredible feat that was achieved perfectly. Having won the favor and praise of the Emperor it was then hewn into a prominent cliff along the road to the Da Jing Gate large enough for everyone to see.
Although the year 1697 AD was brightened by the event of the glorious return of the Great Kangxi Emperor through the Kalgan Gate, which was celebrated with due pomp, in effect 1697 AD appeared in some ways to become a disaster for the city of Kalgan. That is in 1696 AD, the 35th year of his Reign, the Kangxi Emperor abolished the Ming Dynasty Era arrangements of holding "horse markets" for exchange of goods and animals
exchange of goods and animals between the Mongolian and the Chinese side of the now largely culturally defined borders. In this old arrangement, Kalgan had been the no. 1 of all horse markets along the Mongolian Border with by far the largest transport volume, sale and turn over of all. Naturally, this had made the economy prosper as never before. However, due to the military take-over of Mongolia, the Mongolian Steppes were now a part of the Manchu Empire and thus the border markets were obsolete.
After the Manchu Victories and the edict ending the "horse market system and entirely new system was introduced which made use of "Imperial Licenses" (Later dubbed "Dragon Tickets" for their value) issued by the Chinese Government which empowered certain preferred traders with the rights to do business with the (newly acquired Mongolian Territories). By the sale of such "tickets" the Manchu Government was able to make substantial revenues which it had earlier missed out on as the the taxes from horse markets had largely gone to the Provincial Governors. This enhanced central control over what had previously been the border territories and curtailed the finances and thus powers of the local power brokers. In addition, the "Dragon Ticket" system allowed the central Government to select but a few favored, which they could allow to become rich in return for helping the Government establish a power structure in the recently conquered Mongolian territories. The favored few would handle the trade and logistics to support the army in the field, work as a front line cultural Ambassador and the like. All other, those who were not favored enough, or not rich enough to bid on the contract successfully were entirely excluded from all trade and business within "Mongolia", i.e. all area's beyond Kalgan, Datong and the still psychologically important Great Wall of China.