It has been said for centuries that whoever controls Jianmenguan controls the gate to Sichuan province.
Jianmen pass, built in the middle of the Jianmen mountains, dates back to the cretaceous and consists of cliffs 300 metres high, like two unreachable swords on either side, leaving a natural slit no wider than 50 metres wide.
Zhuge liang (181-234), the prime minister of the state of shu (221-263), stumbled upon the mountain during a march. The precipitous rocks and narrow mountain passes made the military genius realize that this was an ideal fortress — easy to defend but hard to attack. Zhuge liang ordered his soldiers to build a gate and pass there. He also opened a 15-kilometer road in the valley between the big and small Jianmen mountains to transport military supplies.
In ancient times, the pass had been considered the main gateway to sichuan province and an invincible defense fought over by many nations. For more than 1,700 years, this “ill-fated” fortress gate tower has been rebuilt, destroyed and repaired again and again after wars and disasters. The tower was completely demolished in 1935 to make way for the sichuan-shaanxi expressway.
In 1992, it was rebuilt at the base of a cliff on the east side of the road. In 2008, a new earthquake was once again destroyed by the 8.0-millisecond wenchuan earthquake.
The gate tower on the pass we see today was designed by tongji university and was rebuilt in 2009, retaining the architectural characteristics of the previous dynasties.
In the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), the tower had three storeys, while in the qing dynasty (1644-1911), it was made of stone with arches and two heavy doors.
Grotesque natural stones falling from the cliff are dotted around the pass, looking like everything from rabbits and turtles to dragons and drums — all in the local imagination. The glass and steel observation deck sits on the main peak of daJianmen mountain, 1,164 meters above sea level and 25 meters across. From here you can have a bird ‘s-eye view of mountains, China tours ancient trees, city towers and steep cliffs.