The Jiayuguan Pass was constructed as far back as 1372. Legend has it that the official charged with overseeing the building of the pass demanded that the foremen not squander a single brick. The builders were for the most part successful, and the project was finished with just one brick surplus to requirements. It was actually left at the site and has become famous among the tourists visiting the area.
The Jiayuguan Pass is constructed in three concentric layers: the central area is made up of an inner city, containing the largest of the pass' buildings; an outer city section, surrounded by a large wall dotted with watchtowers, turrets, and high-terrace pavilions; and finally, for purposes of defense, a moat. All of these features combined to make it a daunting prospect for any would-be attackers.
Encompassing an area of 25,000 square meters (six acres), the inner city is trapezoid-shaped. It is enclosed by the city wall which runs for 640 meters (2,100 feet) and reaches a height of up to 11 meters (36 feet). The inner city has both east and west gates, known as the Guanghua and Rouyuan respectively. Each of the city gates is also protected by its own smaller guard tower. The tower defending the west gate is known as Luo City. From it hangs a plaque with characters that read: "The Greatest Pass under Heaven".
In the inner city are some tourist spots including Youji Jiangjun (an official title)'s Mansion, Wenchang Hall and Jing Pavilion. Found outside the fort's east gate are the Guandi Temple, a series of grand archways and a theater tower. On the west side stands a grand stele housed in a pavilion. The four Chinese characters found etched on its surface - 'Tian', 'Xia', 'Xiong' and 'Guan' - were written by Li Tingchen, a Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) commander.
There are also a number of other historical sites to be found in the Jiayuguan Pass region. These include the Overhanging Great Wall in the north and the First Frusta in the south.