The turtle-shaped walled Chinese city of Yongtai is just a shell of its former self after standing guard against foreign invaders for 400 years.   

Ancient Chinese 'Turtle Town' Is A Tortoise-Shaped Fortress

China's historic resistance against foreign invasion wasn't limited to the Great Wall. Take the turtle-shaped town of Yongtai, located in Sitan township, Jingtai county, Gansu province in northwestern China.

Yongtai was built over 400 years ago by the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and is one of many walled garrison towns established to ward off warrior tribes such as the Mongols.  

Ancient Chinese 'Turtle Town' Is A Tortoise-Shaped Fortress

Viewed from far above (a POV unavailable to its architects), Yongtai takes on the appearance of a turtle. The “shell” is outlined by a 1,700 meter (just over one mile) long and 12 meter (almost 40 feet) high outer wall.

Four fortified gateways known as “barbicans” jut out from each side of the roughly squarish outer wall while a dozen smaller barbette forts are evenly spaced around the wall's circumference.

Ancient Chinese 'Turtle Town' Is A Tortoise-Shaped Fortress

As China expanded under the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), the nation's frontiers moved outwards leaving towns like Yongtai without their primary and original raison d'être. People began leaving the town to find employment elsewhere. These days, Yongtai boasts a mere 76 active households and a total population of roughly 400.

Yongtai Village, as it is now known, maybe mostly gone but it's not been completely forgotten. In 2006 the Chinese government officially designated the turtle-shaped town as a “state-level key cultural relics protection unit”, thus preventing land speculators from “snapping” up disused property at a discount. (via China Plus, photos via Xinhua/Ma Ning)