Chinese: 山丹
Pinyin: Shān dān
English: Shan dan
Coordinates: 38°47'51"N 101°1'35"E

Shandan is situated in the center of the Hexi Corridor on the G30 Expressway in between Zhangye and Wuwei in Gansu Province. To the south are the high and snowy peaks of the Qilian Mountains, and to the north is the vast desert.

Ming and Han Dynasty Great Walls are both present in the Shandan area.

The Ming Dynasty wall in the Shandan area is constructed from rammed earth and has many towers. A long section of the Ming Dynasty wall begins in the city and goes to the southeast towards Wuwei uninterrupted for about 96 kilometers (60 miles). The wall also goes to the northwest, but is more fragmented there.

A beacon tower near Shandan
Photo by Andreas Lehman

A mountain ridge runs roughly parallel to the expressway on its north side. It's in these mountains that the Han Dynasty Great Wall is located. These walls are more deteriorated than the Ming Dynasty walls, and they are more difficult to reach, especially at the higher elevations further to the northwest. You will find Han Dynasty walls in the area about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) northwest of Shandan with elevations of about 3410 meters (11,200 feet), the highest on any Great Wall anywhere. Two roads cross the Han Dynasty Great Wall to the north of Shandan. The S307 crosses the Han wall to the northeast of Shandan. A smaller road, known simply as North Road, crosses the wall at a pass directly north of Shandan on its way to Diquantai village. Here there is an extra wall to the north of the main wall, and several towers, built to provide extra protection for the low pass.

Starting at a distance of about 19 kilometers (12 miles) along the Ming Wall to the southeast of Shandan, there is a length of about 1.25 kilometers (0.75 miles) where Han and Ming walls run parallel separated by a distance of about 20 to 25 meters (65 to 82 feet). About 13 kilometers (8 miles) further along the Ming Dynasty wall, another span of Han Dynasty wall begins. This time the Han wall is about 4.4 kilometers (2.7 miles) long. To the south of the Ming Dynasty wall in this area area are the remains of two Han Dynasty fortresses. About another 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) further on, the Han Dynasty wall starts up again, this time for a distance of about 28 kilometers (17.5 miles).

Location summary: Shandan is about 1322 kilometers (821 miles) west of downtown Beijing. It is about 57 kilometers (35 miles) southeast of Zhangye and about 271 kilometers (169 miles) east of Jiayuguan Fortress.

Driving directions: From Beijing, drive southwest on G030 (G4) for about 57 kilometers (35 miles) from the 5th ring road. Turn right on Langzhuo Expressway and drive west for about 27 kilometers (17 miles). Continue onto C5 and drive southwest for 442 kilometers (275 miles). Continue onto G20 and drive for 495 kilometers (308 miles). At Yanchi, exit onto G2 and drive west for 162 kilometers (101 miles). At Zhongning, turn onto G6 and drive east for 15.5 kilometers (9.6 miles). Turn right onto G2012 and drive west for 64 kilometers (40 miles). At Mengjiawan, turn left on S201 and drive west for 80 kilometers (50 miles). Turn right onto 308 and drive west for 131 kilometers (81 miles). Turn right onto G30 at Lijiatai and drive northwest for 208 kilometers (129 miles). Exit on G312 and drive northwest for 8 kilometers (5 miles) to Shandan.