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We're in Jiayuguan, a city named after the Great Wall fort nearby. This fort marked the beginning of the Great Walls during the Ming dynasty. Here, the silk route caravans paid their customs tax before heading out West to Central Asia and beyond. The Chinese recognize old traditions. You still need to pay a customs tax if you leave through the West Gate of the fort. We avoid the tax by entering and exploring through the East Gate. In the afternoon we visited extremely well-preserved tombs from the 3rd-5th century AD. The tombs were 30 feet below ground, supported by intricate stonework without the use of mortar (the domed stone roofs and archways are engineering marvels). The people painted murals on the tomb walls that depict everyday life during those times. A few murals showed people eating with knives and forks, a tradition we wish the Chinese would have kept. These tombs were discovered in 1972 and no one knows yet who built them. The government just opened the site to the public and it should turn into a famous tourist stop.
Inside the Jiayuguan fort and facing the West Gate, the last stop the silk caravans made in "civilized" China before setting out towards the "barbarian" West.
At the "Over-Hanging" section of the Great Wall, so-named because it scales this mountain - an excellent vantage point.