Chinese: 馬圈灣
Pinyin: Mǎ quān wān
English: Horse pen bay
Coordinates: 40°21'20"N 93°48'37"E

In the Dunhuang area, you will find many sections of Han Dynasty Great Wall that have survived well. For example, in the 50-kilometer (31-mile) line between Yumenguan and Yangguan are many visible wall sections and towers. These fortifications follow a line that runs north to south. At the northern end of this line, at Yumenguan, this wall intersects another wall which runs roughly east to west in both directions from Yumenguan. This section continues with minimal gaps for a distance of about 55 kilometers (34 miles).

The wall in this area is made from rammed earth interlaced with layers of reeds. The resulting durability is very impressive. Just the fact that it has survived for so long in such harsh conditions is a testament to the wall's integrity. I once tested the strength of the Great Wall at near Dunhuang by trying to make a small mark on it with a pocket knife. I was amazed to find that the wall felt like concrete and that moderate pressure with the knife made no impression whatsoever.

About 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) to the west of Yumenguan is the Maquanwan section of the Han Dynasty wall. Maquanwan is one of the easiest locations to access in the Dunhuang area, and it has some of the best-preserved sections of the entire existing Han Dynasty Great Wall.

At Maquanwan, a particularly well-preserved section of about 285 meters (934 feet) in length is protected by a fence. Also, a tower immediately to the west of this section is also enclosed by a fence. Of course, it's easy to access the wall on either end of the fences. You could walk along the wall in either direction from here. If you choose to do so, make sure you take prudent safety precautions to ensure your survival in the harsh conditions.

Also to be found at Maquanwan, on the south side of the wall, are five stacks of reed material that were intended to be used for making fire and smoke signals. These stacks, like the nearby wall constructed with the same material, are well preserved and are protected by fences.

Maquanwan Great Wall

Location summary: Maquanwan is about 1918 kilometers (1192 miles) west of downtown Beijing. It is about 76 kilometers (47 miles) northwest of Dunhuang and about 4.7 kilometers (2.9 miles) west of Yumenguan.

Driving directions: From Dunhuang, drive west on G215 for 34 kilometers (21 miles). Turn right and drive northwest for 60 kilometers (37 miles). Turn right and drive for 3 kilometers (2 miles) to the Maquanwan Great Wall.

Maquanwan Han Dynasty Great Wall