The Very Best Historic Castles in China

Castles in China

History Hit

24 Nov 2020

From the incredible Hailongtun and the eye-opening Diaoyu Fortress to the astonishing Baimaguan Fort, Chinese castles and forts are absolutely mind-blowing places to discover. Other prominent sites to visit usually include Gyantse Dzong Castle and Miran Fort, which are all fascinating in their own right. Here are the best 10 things to see and do while exploring the fortifications of China, with a few additional picks thrown in for good measure.

What are the best Castles in China?

Image Credit: CC / Alphaarea

1. Hailongtun

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 after the Bozhou rebellion. Hailongtun is an example of a well-preserved medieval castle in China. In 1600 the Ming defeated the Bozhou rebellion, with the last tusi Yang Yinglong committing suicide, at which point the castle was burned down.

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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 kilometers east of Hechuan, Chongqing, near the confluence of the Qu, Fu and Jialing rivers.

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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 500 guards and beacon towers and along with Qiangzilu
Fort and Gubeikou Fort, these forts offered additional defence
along China’s northern front. Little
of the original structure has remained, except for the south gate.

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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, who probably reigned from 838 to 841 CE. The present walls were supposedly built in 1268, after the rise in power of the Sakyapa sect.

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Image Credit: CC / Vic Swift

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, and vital sources for understanding the early history of Tibet.

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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.

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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, as from the
beginning, it functioned as a military fortress. 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.

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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. There were 44 cannons there to defend against the British, 40 dark artillery and 4 open forts. 

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Image Credit: Anna Frodesiak / CC

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 the 1890 invasion by France, and in 1932 against the Japanese during the Cole attack.

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