From ancient walled cities to 19th century fortresses, we’ve listed 10 spectacular castles in China. They include Weiyuan Fort, a coastal fortress that was used to confront the British empire during the Opium Wars, and Miran Fort which was active in the 8th and 9th centuries AD.
Hailongtun, meaning ‘Sea Dragon Castle’, is a ruined fortress on the Longyan Mountain, in Zunyi City, China. It was the stronghold of the Bozhou Tusi until its destruction by the Ming dynasty following the Bozhou rebellion. Hailongtun is an example of a well-preserved medieval castle in China. In 1600 the Ming defeated the Bozhou rebellion, with leader Yang Yinglong committing suicide.
2. Diaoyu Fortress
The Diaoyucheng or Diaoyu Fortress, is located on the Diaoyu Mountain in Chongqing, China. The castle is known for its resistance to the Mongol armies in the latter half of the Song dynasty. The ancient Diaoyu covers an area of 2.94 square kilometres. Situated on a hill surrounded by water on three sides, it is located about five kilometres east of Hechuan, Chongqing, near the confluence of the Qu, Fu and Jialing rivers.
3. Baimaguan Fort
Baimaguan Fort is a fort in the village of Fanzipai, north of Beijing and close to the Great Wall of China. It was built in the period of the Yongle emperor (1402-1424) of the Ming Dynasty. The fort consisted of several hundred guard and beacon towers. Along with Qiangzilu Fort and Gubeikou Fort, it supported a defensive line across China’s northern front. Little of the original structure remains beyond the south gate.
4. Gyantse Dzong Castle
Gyantse Dzong or Gyantse Fortress is one of the best preserved dzongs in Tibet, perched high above the town of Gyantse on a huge spur of grey brown rock. Constructed around 1390, the castle we see today guarded the southern approaches to the Tsangpo Valley and Lhasa. The original fortress, known as Gyel-khar-tse was attributed to Pelkhor-tsen, son of the anti-Buddhist king Langdharma. He probably reigned from 838 to 841 CE. The present walls were supposedly built in 1268.
5. Miran Fort
Miran Fort is a ruined defensive structure in Miran, Xinjiang, China. The fort was active during the Tibetan Empire, in the 8th and 9th centuries AD. The excavation of the fort at Miran has yielded hundreds of military documents from the 8th and 9th century, which are among the earliest surviving Tibetan manuscripts. These are vital sources for understanding the early history of Tibet.
6. Tuancheng Fortress
The Tuancheng Fortress or Tuan Cheng Fortress (literally ‘Round Wall Fortress’) is a historic 18th-century fortress located near the Fragrant Hills in the Haidian District of Beijing, China. Today, the fortress is a national museum. The fortress was built in 1749, the 14th year of the Qianlong Emperor’s reign. Tuancheng was a castellated military training compound used by the Qing to train, inspect, and honour their troops.
7. Wanping Castle
Wanping Fortress, also known as Wanping Castle is a Ming Dynasty fortress or ‘walled city’ in Beijing. It was erected in 1638–1640, with the purpose of defending Beijing against Li Zicheng and the peasant uprising. In Chinese, the fortress is sometimes called Wanping City. The Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, surrounded by a plaza and park with numerous sculptures, occupies a large portion of the space inside the fortress walls.
8. Weiyuan Fort
Weiyuan Fort is a coastal-defense fort, now in ruins, in Humen, Dongguan, Guangdong, China. The fort was constructed in 1835 and was in use during the Opium Wars. The fort is situated immediately under the Humen Bridge. 44 cannon were stationed here to defend against the British.
9. Xiuying Fort
Xiuying Fort is located in Haikou City, Hainan Province, China. It was constructed in 1890 by the Qing government to counter the threat of the French. It was used to defend against French invasion in 1890. It also features a Chinese artillery battery used to confront Japanese warships in the early 20th century. Xiuying Fort is well maintained with good signage.
10. Tashkurgan Fortress
The Princess Castle dates from the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368 AD) and is situated in the northeast corner of the town of Tashkurgan, in the far north west of China. In Turkic languages, the town’s name itself means “Stone Fortress”. The Princess Castle is located on the historical Silk Road and is the subject of local legends.