Established in 2000, the Shahu Pass Scenic Area is a major tourist destination in Youyu county. YANG JIANMIN / FOR CHINA DAILY
The Shahu Pass, a strategic stronghold on the Great Wall and hub for the famed Shanxi merchants, has used its unique historical and cultural resources to develop into a major tourist attraction.
The Shahu Pass, which literally means "tiger-killing pass", is located in Youyu county in northern Shanxi province.
Its history as a military stronghold dates back to the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), when it was one of the passes on the Great Wall in the north of China to defend against the invasions of nomads.
For more than 2,000 years, the Shahu Pass has held a unique position among the people of Shanxi as well as the entire nation, as many soldiers were killed during numerous wars and battles there.
The pathos of the place is captured by an ancient poem:
"The dried skeletons near the Great Wall
Were frequent visitors to the dreams of their beloved ones afar."
As ethnic conflicts waned during the early and middle Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the pass became a hub of trade for the Shanxi merchants, who were said to dominate the business circles of North China for more than 500 years.
During this period, the place became known as a send-off point, as merchants were bid farewell there by their families when they walked or rode horses to regions as far as Russia and parts of Europe.
The departure at the Shahu Pass, which was also referred to as Western Pass, is a common topic in many literary works and folk songs.
The pathos of departure has touched the hearts of many Shanxi locals through the folk song Out of the Western Pass, with the lyrics:
"When you started your trip out of the Western Pass, my dear, I know there's no way to hold you back..."
Emotional separations at the Shahu Pass are long gone as highways, railways and airports have emerged as the means of transportation since the 1950s.
But the Shahu Pass, as well as the nearby Great Wall sections, has become a popular tourist attraction in Youyu county. This is because of its emotional significance among Shanxi locals, with many legends and relics in the area.
Established in 2000, the Shahu Pass Scenic Area is a 4A-class tourist destination. The tourism industry in Youyu county has seen rapid development in recent years, driven by the renowned destination.
Youyu was named a model county in Shanxi for tourism development in 2017. It received 3.88 million visits in 2019, growing 33.8 percent year-on-year. Its tourism revenue reached 3.56 billion yuan ($510.5 million) in 2019, up 31.9 percent from 2018.
Li Yu contributed to this story.