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The Great Wall of China is famous for its gigantic scale, incredible length, long history and beautiful architecture. Having been baptized by nature for thousands of years and having witnessed the changes of many dynasties, the Wall is a symbol of ancient culture and history of China and it is a man-made wonder of the world.
The 6,300 kilometers long Great Wall winding its way westward from the bank of the Yalu River and ending at the foot of the snow covered Qilianshan Mountains and Tianshan Mountains, the Great Wall climbs mountains, cuts across pasturelands and deserts and goes through valleys, like a huge flying dragon standing in the north part of China. It is the only man-made project, which can be seen from the Moon.
The Great Wall in Beijing is the first important tourist attraction for tourists. There is one saying “One who didn't climb the Great Wall was not a true man.”
Visiting the Great Wall in Beijing
Beijing is protected by the Taihang and Yanshan mountain ranges to its west and north. Three passes separate the Beijing and Hebei area from Mongolia and Manchuria. Gubeikou and JuyongGuan are in north of Beijing. Shanhaiguan is at the eastern coast facing Bohai Sea. The Beijing area has itself eight sites at the Great Wall for tourists, these comprising of two passes (JuyongGuan and Gubeikou) and six sections of the wall (Badaling, Mutianyu, Simatai, Jinshanling, HuanghuaCheng and Jiankou). Another two nearby Great Wall sites, Shanghaiguan and Huangyaguan can each be visited as an overnight tour from Beijing.
The Great Wall was only opened to the dignitaries and tourists at Badaling till the early 1980s. In 1984, the Chinese government set up a Great Wall Restoration Committee to raise funds to restore the Great Wall as a national symbol of China under a slogan of "Love China and Rebuild the Great Wall." Supported by the news media, scholars and artists contributed works in the form of calligraphy, paintings and sculptures for decoration and for sale to raise funds. Chinese from all walks of life donated, as did foreigners. Two years later a sum of USD 2.7 million was collected for the reconstruction of the Great Wall. The Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping, wrote an inscription for the slogan at the entrance of the Badaling Great Wall. A special monument was given in honor of Pakistan and other foreign contributions at the Wangjingshi (Looking to Beijing Rock), also at Badaling.
On first arrival at Beijing, most tourists aspire to see the Great Wall. Many will spend half a day at the touristy and packed Badaling, the nearby Juyong Guan or the quieter Mutianyu. The more initiated will want to spend a full day hiking along some deserted and more challenging sections like Gubeikou, Simatai, Jinshanling, HuanghuaCheng and Jiankou. The wall seen at the above sites were built during the Ming Dynasty, as the Han Dynasty wall had long fallen into decay.
The Eight Great Wall Sites at Beijing
The eight sites of the Great Wall at Beijing, starting from the north-west clockwise, are Badaling, JuyongGuan and HuanghuaCheng, then Jiankou and Mutianyu in the north followed by Jinshanling, Gubeikou and Simatai to the north-east. A few desolated sites have been closed by the authorities to prevent further damage to the structures as well as injuries to tourists. The eight Great Wall sites in the Beijing area are described as below:
Badaling (Peak to leading all Directions) sector, located at Yanqing County 70 km northwest of Beijing, is the first section of the Great Wall to be opened to tourists. There was an older and incomplete wall here during Warring States Period (476 BC - 221 BC). However, the wall we are seeing was built in 1571 and was repaired in 1957. It is considered the best preserved, being the hallmark of Ming Dynasty wall construction. It became a United Nations world cultural heritage in 1987.
The section is about 5 km long with 19 watchtowers. The wall extends from peak to peak and is made of rectangular slabs, standing seven to eight meters high, six meters wide at the base and five meters wide at the ramparts, hence allowing ten soldiers or five horses to stand abreast. Along the wall are observation platforms every 500 meters and they also serve as sentry posts and storage for weapons and food.
Many visitors bemoan the commercialization of Badaling. Shops and sellers abound making the visit as one of festivity. There is a cable car as well as a Great Wall museum of Chinese History and a Great Wall Circle Vision Amphitheater for 15 minute film shows. The museum has a photo gallery showing all the world’s famous personalities who came to climb and admire this man-made wonder. For those who are not physically fit, Badaling is the safest site to see the Great Wall.
The left part of the Badaling wall is steeper but gives better scenery of the wall. To the east of Badaling is a 2 meter high rock said to be where Dowager Empress Cixi looked towards Beijing in reflection to her previous grand court life-style compared to her then 1900 distress in her fleeing to Xian to escape the Eight Nations Allied Army. This is the rock mentioned earlier, called “Looking to Beijing Rock”, with a monument for foreign contributors to the reconstruction of the Great Wall in the 1980s.
Juyong Guan (Common Dwelling Pass), 10 km before Badaling, is the sector I like best because of its historical significance. Juyong Pass guards a 100 meter wide 20 km long and deep gully 60 km northwest of Beijing on the same railway line just before Badaling. Juyong Pass was also said to have been used in the Qin Dynasty when the First Emperor, Qin shihuangdi started the Great Wall.
The surrounding the valley area was considered one of the Eight Sceneries of Yanjing (ancient name for Beijing) during the Jin Dynasty (AD 1115-1234). In autumn the valley is colored red by the maple leaves. Juyong Pass has a architecturally unique marbled Cloud Terrace (Yuntai) complex built in 1345AD, with a semi-hexagonal arched gateway through it. The ceiling and walls of the terrace have interesting Buddhist inscriptions and carvings, one called “A Record of Charitable and Pious Pagoda Building” featuring six languages (Sanskrit, Tibetan, Mongolian, Western Xia, Uighur and Han).
Three stone pagodas atop the Cloud Terrace were built by the last Yuan Emperor, but were soon burnt down with the fall of the Yuan Dynasty in 1368. Hence, the Cloud Terrace supporting the three white pagodas and built across a street was also called "Crossing Street Tower" (Guojieta). A temple called TaiAn Si (Great Peace Temple) was built to replace the pagodas, but was accidentally burnt down in 1702. At the Juyong area is a Northern Song Dynasty temple honoring five heroes of great strength who helped to dig the gully.
A tomb of the Eastern Han period (25-221) unearthed in Inner Mongolia showed a wall painting of a noble on horseback at Juyong Pass, showing Juyongguan as a wooden bridge-like structure with the word “JuyongGuan”.
The name of Juyong Pass is interesting because the character Yong indicated a common and inferior status, hence Juyong means common dwelling, a name not complimentary to its status of protecting the Ming and Qing Imperial capital. It is believed that the name was given during the much earlier Qin Dynasty when this Great Wall site had plain dwellings for numerous conscripted labourers building the wall. At that time Yanjing (Old Beijing) was not considered as important as the Qin capital at Xianyang.
In A.D. 916 Beijing became the capital of the Khitan tribe, which called itself the Liao Kingdom. In 1122, the Nuchens attacked Beijing through the Juyong Pass. To the invaders’ good luck, there was a landslide at the pass which killed many defenders, allowing the Nuchens to overwhelm them and to take Beijing, which became the capital of the Nuchens under the Jin Dynasty. The Liao Empress had to escape to the north from Beijing via the Gubeikou Pass.
In 1213, the Mongol leader, Genghis Khan, attempted an attack on Beijing, but was repulsed by the Jin defenders at Juyongguan, who poured molten iron on the gate of the fortress. However, Genghis Khan had a general called Tsabar, who was his emissary to the Jin capital and who knew about a little used path to bypass the Juyong Pass. Using this path at night, the Mongol horsemen in a single file broke through and surprised the Juyong Pass defenders from the rear.
With the retreat of the Mongols in 1368, Ming General Xuda quickly secured the Juyong Pass and started reconstruction of the wall to prevent further Mongol attacks. He built four defensive walls, two circular and two straight across the pass with an extra wall at Gubeikou. The Ming wall construction at Beijing lasted from 1368 till 1582.
In 1449, the 20 year old Ming Emperor was gullible enough to allow his eunuch tutor, Wang Zhen , to plan an attack on the Mongols, with the Emperor in lead. The corrupt eunuch’s plan was actually to divert the Emperor to visit his own nearby native village rather than to go to battle. Without any military experience, the glory seeking eunuch caused a military disaster ending with two Ming Emperors contending for the throne. Half a million Ming troops with the Emperor passed through Juyong Pass to an ignominious defeat at the battle of Tumupu, where the Emperor was himself captured by the Mongol leader Esen , but he was later released to cause conflict between the captured Emperor and his newly installed successor. The Zhengtong Emperor was re-instated by his supporters as the TianShun Emperor in a coup in 1457. Again in 1549, another Mongol leader, Altan Khan, attacked Beijing but knowing the difficulty of going through Juyong Pass, he opted instead to go further east and broke through the Gubeikou Pass and then took Juyong Pass from the rear. Advancing up to the gates of Beijing he laid waste the suburbs before retreating north.
Towards the end of the Ming Dynasty, the peasant rebel leader, Li Zicheng, attacked Juyong Pass in 1644. Dissatisfied with the Ming Court corruption, the military surrendered to the rebel forces and allowed Li Zicheng to capture Beijing, precipitating the suicide of the last Ming Emperor at Coal Hill, now called Beijing's Jingshan Park, just outside the Forbidden City.
Mutianyu Great Wall, located at Huairou 79 km northeast of Beijing, joins the Juyong Pass in the west and Gubeikou in the east. Though only 20 km long it has 22 beacon towers and was opened to tourists on May Day in 1986, the second Great Wall site opened to tourists after Badaling. For those weary of walking they can have access to a cable car, with excellent views at the top. There was an earlier wall built 1400 years ago, but the present wall was built during the Ming Dynasty by General Xu Da under the order of Ming founder, Zhu Yuanzhang. It was further strengthened by General Qi Jiguang in 1568. In 1988, the Henkel Company of Germany donated US$300,000 to restore Mutianyu.
There is a tower complex of three inter-connected towers capable of withstanding a strong attack. The other interesting feature unique to Mutianyu is that the inner and outer parapets of the wall are crenellated with merlons for shots to be fired on both sides of the wall. It was at Mutianyu that Cao Cao during the Three Kingdom Period defeated his opponent Yuan Shao. The Mutianyu section was later redesigned and strengthened by Ming General, Qi Jiguang, Military Superintendent of Jizhou.
Simatai, the 5.5 Km long sector at Miyun County near the Gubeikou frontier garrison is 140 km to the north-east of Beijing. It has 35 beacon towers, being quiet and peaceful but challenging, with crumbling parts and steep walls beyond its restored first portion. For those who want to see the Great Wall untouched by modern hands, this is the part to go for. It has interesting towers and platforms of various designs.
At the highest position one can see Beijing from a tower called Wangjinglou (Tower for viewing the Capital). Notice that some of the bricks here have dates and numbers to indicate the maker in order to ensure quality. To reach Wangjinglou, about 1000 meters above sea level, one must overcome the 70 degree slope Stairway to Heaven (requiring a crawl on all fours), and the narrow hundred meter long Sky Bridge across a deep abyss between Wangjinglou and Fairy Tower. This is certainly a most dangerous climb. In the early spring and summer mornings, one may be lucky to see a sea of clouds below. Fairy Tower is beautiful with an interesting twin lotus flower carving above its arched door.
A cable car may save some half hour by foot, while a full hike may take two hours. A small Simatai reservoir divides the wall into two sectors, the Simatai to the east and Jinshanling to the west. Simatai has been included by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage site.
Jinshanling (Gold Mountain), equally far as Simatai, is at Luanping county some 150 km from Beijing and slightly to the west of Simatai. It was constructed during the Ming Dynasty from 1386 till 1389, and re-constructed in 1571 by Ming General Qi Jiguang. The Jinshan name apparently came from Genral Qi’s Jiangsu troops, who named two towers in honor of the smaller and greater Jinshan Islands in Zhenjiang City in Jiangsu.
The section, just over 10 km, is desolated with 150 odd battle platforms in various shapes. Parts of the Jinshanling have "obstacle-walls", actually smaller upright stone slabs at right angles to the parapets to shield defenders when facing enemies who had already ascended the wall from below and were charging up the rampart. The side walls also have peepholes and shooting holes unique to Jinshanling. After Badaling, it is the second most complete section of the Great Wall, despite having no recent repairs. From the eastern end of Jinshanling, one ascends the hundred meter long Stairway to Heaven to reach Wangjinglou (Tower for viewing the Capital) at Simatai.
Huanghuacheng (Yellow Flower Town), 100 km north of Beijing and 20 km from Mutianyu, is the latest section to become popular with hikers. It was built by Ming General Cai Kai, whose prolonged and meticulous work caused him to be beheaded under a false charge of inefficiency. Realizing his mistake and with a heavy conscience, the Emperor had General Cai Kai reburied with honors as well as commissioning a two large words Jin Tang to be carved into a large rock at Huanghuacheng. The character (metal) denotes the hardness of metal, and the character (boiling solution) denotes great heat, hence the two characters implied the invincibility of the Huanghuacheng wall. Thus, the Huanghuacheng sector is also known as the Jintang Great Wall.
The wall can be accessed by crossing a moon-shaped reservoir close to the Jintang Lake. The wall section is said to be an exquisite for the lonely and contemplative traveler, a site considered beautiful but dangerous as parts of the wall may crumble, plunging the hiker down to the terrain below. During summer, the area is colored with yellow by the flowers, and during autumn, the ground is carpeted with yellow leaves. Shibadeng is the steepest and most perilous part.
Gubeikou (Old Northern Entrance), in Miyun County is 120 km northeast of Beijing on a road that running northwards as a 20 km wide pass through the Yanshan Mountain Range. Located at Wohu (Lying Tiger) mountain, it was originally called Hubeikou. In 1368 Ming Dynasty general, Xu Da, rebuilt this section of the Great Wall. Gubeikou has seen famous battles and on its slope is a temple dedicated to Yang Ye who was a famous Song Dynasty general. His illustrious military family served the Song Emperors for four generations. Their stories of loyalty, bravery and romance were told in books, operas and by balladeers and minstrels.
Gubeikou was first constructed in the Qi Dynasty while the newer Beikou town, originally called Yingcheng, was built in 1378. The town is protected by Caohe River to the west and surrounded by three gates to the north, east and south, as well three underground, water gates. The Qing Emperors going to their summer residence in Chengde had to pass through Gubeikou. Although an interesting historical site on its own, Gubeikou is considered by some as inclusive of the Great Wall sections of Jinshanling to the west and Simatai to the east. Here, Jinshanling and Simatai are considered separately as different locations.
During the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) the walls were 10 kilometres north of the present Ming walls. The walls were built and rebuilt by succeeding dynasties from the Northern Qi Dynasty (479-502) to the Tang (618-907), the Song (960-1279) and the Jin or Jurchens (1115-1234). The victorious Mongols from the north under Gengzhis Khan did not have need to have the Great Wall as a barrier.
With the overthrow of the Mongols, the Ming Dynasty General Xu Da quickly captured Gubeikou and started reconstruction of the wall from Juyongguan to Shanhaiguan in 1370. When the Yongle Emperor moved his capital to Beijing in 1420, Gubeikou became even more crucial as the key to the defence of the city from the north-east. In 1549, the Mongol leader, Altan Khan, succeeded in breaking through Gubeikou and pillaged the suburbs of Beijing before returning north. In 1568 the Gubeikou wall was again rebuilt by General Qi Jiguang in coordination with General Tan Lun, and the new wall was able to face attacks from both front and rear. Part of the wall was damaged from shelling by Japanese Army during the War of Resistance from 1937 to 1945.
Jiankou (Arrow Entrance) in Huairou County is 73 kilometres north of Beijing, connecting Mutianyu to the east and HuanghuaCheng to the west. This section was built during the Ming Dynasty in 1368. It is noticeable for its white rocks and the fact that the main sections are built on cliffs, with iron shoulder poles inserted between the cliffs. It has five gate towers and is considered very perilous, especially in winter when the wall is very scenic under white snow. Like HuanghuaCheng, this site is gaining popularity among the adventurous and the backpackers.
Two Great Wall sites outside Beijing
For visitors to Beijing who are Great Wall enthusiasts, they can continue eastward outside Beijing onto Shanghaiguan and Huangyaguan.
Shanhaiguan Pass (Mountain and Sea Pass), at Qinhuangdao City of Hebei, about 300 km from Beijing, lies between the Yan Mountains in the north and the Bohai Sea in the south. It is 10km in width and commands an extremely strategic location that blocks the northern Manchuria tribes from advancing into eastern Hebei. The pass was restored in 1952. There is a temple for Lady Meng Jiangnu at Shanhaiguan.
The first settlement appeared in 6th Century BC and the earliest gate called Yuguan, now non-existent, was erected in 618. The pass saw numerous battles between the Chinese ruling dynasties and the northern tribes. Following the defeat of the Mongols by the Ming forces, General Xu Da in 1381 built the present pass into a formidable fortress complex with four gates.
The four gates had each an urn-like enclosure, the east gate further enhanced with web fortification. The north gate was destroyed and only the east, west and south gates remain, the east gate being the most beautiful. Each gate had a tower but only the east gate tower remains. This tower, about 14 meter high has two storeys, the top storey of wood has decorations of the Ming era. The main fort is surrounded by a moat of 10 meters deep and 20 meters wide and supported by smaller secondary forts.
In 1472, a Ming scholar and calligrapher called Xiao Xian wrote the famous five characters in Chinese meaning First Fortress under Heaven. His calligraphy is on a placard hanging on the top of the eastern gate. In 1644, Ming General Wu Sangui, opened up the fortress gate for the Manchu troops under Doergun to foray south into Beijing and China to destroy the rebel army of Li Zicheng. Once in China, the superior Manchu army took Beijing and set up the Qing Dynasty which ruled from 1644 till 1911. Each Manchu Emperor on his journey to and from Chengde would pass through Shanhaiguan, but the pass had already lost its military significance.
Some 5 km from Shanhaiguan is Laulongtou (Old Dragon Head), the end point of this section at the Bohai seacoast. It was built of stones by General Qi Jiguang but has fallen into ruins. A stone tablet at a secondary sea-pacifying fort read “Heavens with a view of Mountain and Sea”, apparently with the personal calligraphy of Qi Jiguang.
Huangyaguan (Yellow Precipice) 28 km north of Jixian Country, 120 km north of Tianjin was built in 557 and rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty. This section of the Great Wall, hugging the Wangmaoding Mountain, has features different with those in Beijing, for it is a mix of high terrains and rivers with fortresses, water obstacles and traps. It hosts an international marathon on the Great Wall annually. The sites of interest include the Forest of Stone Tablets, the Phoenix Tower and the North Pole Pavilion.

Jiayuguan Pass Great Wall Shnhaiguan Pass Great Wall
Jiayuguan Pass Great Wall
Shanhaiguan Pass Great Wall
Badaling Great Wall
Juyongguan Pass Great Wall
Badaling Great Wall
Juyongguan Pass Great Wall
Mutianyu Great Wall
Jiankou Great Wall
Mutianyu Great Wall
Jiankou Great Wall
Jinshanling Great Wall
Simatai Great Wall
Jinshanling Great Wall
Simatai Great Wall
Huanghuacheng Great Wall
Huangyagua Great Wall
Huanghuacheng Great Wall
Huangyagua Great Wall

More Detailed Stories about China Great Wall
Long History and incredible Length 2500 years ago, there were many principalities such as Qi, Chou, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei and Qin in China. Each of them constructed its own walls at various strategic places and on the border to defend its rivals. This kind of wall was different from the ordinary city wall in that it extended continuously for miles and didn’t encircle a city. Many walls stretched to every direction and they were called the border wall.
In 221B.C. Qinshihuang annexed other six main principalities and established the first centralized feudal state in Chinese history. To protect the security of China, to safeguard the people and production in the central plain and to ensure a stable life, Emperor Qinshihuang sent his senior general Mengtian with a force of 300,000 to attack the Donghu and Xiongnu, which were old minority groups living in the north. At the same time, he linked up the early northern walls built by other principalities. He also emigrated people from the central plain to northern part of China near the Great Wall to strengthen the northern frontier. The wall extended from Lintao today in Gansu province in the west to eastern Liaodong today in Liaoning province with a total length over 5000 km. The wall built during Emperor Qinshihuang’s reign laid the foundation of the later Great wall. Emperor Qinshihuang ordered the destruction of the walls inside the country, which were built by the former principalities so as to prevent the further splitting and enhance economic and cultural exchanges in his empire.
After the Qin Dynasty, the succeeding dynasties, including Han, Northern Wei, Eastern Wei, Northern Qi, Northern Zhou, Sui, Liao, Jin, Ming, continued to build and restore the Great Wall on a massive scale and extended it. The engineering projects undertaken in Han and Ming dynasties were the largest. The Han Dynasty Great Wall with its system of fortifications and beacon towers exceeded 10,000 km in length, which made the Great Wall extend westward to xinjiang. The Tang, the Yuan and the Qing dynasties didn’t undertake constructions of the Great Wall on a large scale, but repaired the passes and fortresses. So we can say that the Chinese governments never interrupted building defense work over the Great Wall in the last 2,000 years.
The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644A.D.) was the last dynasty that undertook extensive repairing and construction of the Great Wall. This was the peak in the development of construction projects of the Wall with neatly arranged blocks of stones faced with bricks to make the Wall more solid than ever. The Ming Wall extended from the mouth of Yalu River to Qilian Mountain, totaling 6,300km and most of the ruined sites remained until today. The section between Shanhaiguan Pass and Juyongguan Pass, 60km north to the Imperial Palace of Ming Dynasty was a very important defense system. It was built into a very tall and solid structure and heavily guarded by soldiers to keep the Mongols and the Manchurians from invading.
In the Qing Dynasty, the emperors adopted a way of conciliation to control Mongolian and Tibetan dukes and nobles. The Qing Emperors always married their princess to Mongolian nobles and even conferred them high ranking titles. At the same time the Qing rulers used the religion to hook in the Mongolians and Tibetans. The Mongolians and Tibetans believed in Buddhism. The emperors built Lama Temple in Beijing and invited the famous Lamas to preach the Buddhist scripture to show their respect to Buddha. And the emperors invited the minority group leaders to spend holidays in the Summer Resort in Chengde 300km away from Beijing and bestowed them treasure and promoted their official ranks. Through these measures, the Qing government saved tremendous amount of money, which would otherwise have to be spent on building the Great Wall.
According to historical records, the total length of the wall built in each dynasty comes to 50,000km. The Ming Wall was around 6,300km. According to a rough estimate of the bricks, stones, cubic meters of earth used to build the wall in Ming Dynasty, it is said that with the materials we can build a new wall with one meter thick and five meters high, which can encircle the Earth one time. If the materials are used to pave a highway with five meters wide and 35cm thick, it can encircle the Earth three times, so no wonder that the Wall is the largest man-made project in the world.
Solid and Complete Defense network
Judging from today’s standpoint, the Wall can’t be considered a defense network of great military value. But when people’s main military weapons were the swords, arrows, bows and hooks, the situation was quite different.
With the military passes and fortifications built along the Wall at strategic points, the Wall offered an excellent defense network. There were cases that the nomads launched the attacks but retreated without fighting when they saw such a strong defense work. The wall was really useful to foil the attacks from the mobile cavalries of the nomadic people. The Ming Dynasty established a perfect defense system called “nine borders and eleven fortressed towns” to administrate different sections of the Wall. The so-called “nine borders” means a division of regions along the wall into nine sections, which was separately administrated. Each section had one or two fortressed towns. The fortessed towns were as follows: Liaodong, Jizhen, Changzhen, Zhenbao, Xuanfu, Datong, Taiyuan, Yansui, Ningxia, Guyuan and Gansu. According to the historical records, there were about one million soldiers stationing along the “nine borders and eleven fortressed towns”.
Defense work of the Wall built in the Ming Dynasty consists of different architectures such as fortressed town, castle, garrison city, mountain pass city, city wall, watchtower and beacon tower. These architectures were connected with each other forming a complete network of defense project.
Mountain pass city It is a major defense stronghold along the Wall. The top generals and high-ranking officials would station in it. In order to control strategic points and use fewer soldiers to ward off the attack of enemies of large number, it was built on the top of the mountain, near the cliff, in the deep gully or gorge. So even one man guarded it, he could ward off 10,000 men. There were so many mountain pass cities such as Shanhai Pass City, Juyong Pass City, Gubeikou Pass city, Huangyaguan Pass City and Jiayu Pass City.
The wall The wall was the main construction work, connecting strategic passes and beacon towers into an integrated unit. It was built accordance with the terrain. Its width and height varied from place to place. Take Juyong Pass and Badaling for instance, the body of the wall averaged 7 or 8 meters in height and 5 or 7 meters in thickness. The top was narrower and bottom wider. Every a few hundred meters, at the foot of the Wall, there was an arched gate paved with stones or bricks steps leading to the top. The top of the Wall was paved with bricks and it made into a 4-5 meters wide road, which could hold five horses or ten people to walk abreast. The inner wall called parapet wall was one meter high. The outer wall called battlement wall was two meters high with many crenels for keeping on watch and it had small holes in the under part for shooting. To prevent the wall being eroded from the rain, drainage and spouting troughs were installed. There were several types of towers on the Wall. One was called “wall terrace”, which was as high as the wall. It protruded outside the wall and provided shelter for the patrolling soldiers from rain and wind. Another was called “defense tower”, which had two stories. There were several arched rooms, made of bricks, used as barrack for the soldiers. The upper floor was used for keeping on watch. Beacon fire could be lighted there. A third type was called “fighting tower”, located at strategic point, stored with enough weapons for the soldiers to fight against the enemies. The fourth type was called” riding wall watch tower”, which was very big and high. It could hold more than one hundred soldiers to fight with the enemies.
Beacon tower It was an independent high platform, with attached house and facilities to make smoke or fire as signal to warn people of enemy coming. It was made of stones or bricks or rammed earth. The beacon towers could be divided into four types. One type was built on two sides of the Wall. Another was built outside of the Wall. The third was linked with royal prefecture or capital. The fourth was linked to neighboring prefecture or fortressed town.
The people used wolf dung to make smoke because its smoke was thick and didn’t disperse in the sky. In Chinese literature the saying: ”wolf dung smoke everywhere”, which means that the war has spread out. Beacon towers were very important. They should be built in a place where three of them could see each other. The soldiers must be on duty 24 hours. It was not allowed to leave without permission.
In the Ming Dynasty, the regulations of using beacon fire were stipulated in 1446. Cannon shot was fired once with one column of smoke meant enemies less than 200 coming. Two shots with two columns of smoke meant 500 enemies coming. Three and three meant 1,000 enemies coming. Four and four meant 5,000. Five and five meant 10,000. In the night fire would be taken instead. At the same time the soldiers added sulphur and saltpeter to make light fire more effectively. According the beacon fire, the officers could command the army to attack the enemy conveniently.
Crystallization of Wisdom
When our ancestors built the wall, they gave a full play on their creations and wisdom.
Using the terrains and strategic points To economize the manpower and materials, the people made good use of terrain to build the wall along the mountain ridges. In some part they made the cliffs as one part of the wall. When the Wall reached a big river or lake the natural barrier was used again.
To suit local conditions, use local materials This was an experience gained in the course of construction. To avoid transportation over long distances, the builders mainly used earth and stone before using bricks. In the loess regions, rammed earth was widely used. In the Gobi desert, the people piled willow branches, reeds, pebbles and sand layer by layer to build the wall. In Ming Dynasty, the people quarried block stones and fired bricks near the wall, at the same time, people applied lime and mortar to make the wall solidified.
Working in different groups The work and responsibility were clearly assigned to different groups. It promoted the working efficiency and quality.
Using efficient transporting ways In the old time, there were no machines; the people worked on their hands and shoulders. Transporting the materials was a tremendous work and difficult to do. You can imagine some slabs of stones weighed more than two tons, and they should be transported on the mountain ridge. How hard it was. But the builders used good methods to transport the materials.1. Using labors. Bricks, mortars and small stones were carried on the back of man, by means of baskets, on a piece of long pole, etc. Men stood in line to pass the materials from hand to hand in the narrow pathway to avoid people bumping each other. 2. Using simple mechanical means. Handcarts, rolling logs were widely used. On mountaintops windlasses were installed to hoist huge stones up from below. Cableways were another device to transport bricks and mortars in baskets. 3. Using animals. Goats and donkeys were used. Bricks and mortars were carried in baskets by donkeys. Goats with bricks tied on their horns were driven up the mountains.
Using scientific techniques When building the arched doorways, the people applied mortars and used a string with a brass knob on end to find level line, all these proved to be very scientific and marvelous.
Most parts of the great Wall built in the Ming Dynasty can stand till today reflected the ingenuity and wisdom of the Chinese people in ancient time. That really commands our respect.
Historic Monument and Cultural Treasure The Great Wall was a product of contradictions between various ruling cliques in ancient China. First the walls scattered in all directions and in most parts of China. Later, Emperor Qinshihuang had the walls joint up in the north part of China. In Han Dynasty, the wall went northward beyond the limit of the Qin wall by several hundred kilometers and 1,000 km in some places. In the Ming Dynasty, Nuergan Du SI, a sort of provincial governmental institute was set up in a place now in Russia called Nicholayevsk. The Ming government administrated military and civil affairs there. Therefore, the Grate Wall was not China’s boundary, nor was it a demarcation line for fixing administrative areas in China.
From the time when it was first built to its gradual perfection and improvement finally to the fulfillment of its historic mission as a defense line, the Wall saw the rise and fall of feudal China. Apart from its role of defensive system the Great Wall played a positive role in developing culture, economy, politics and it was a monument of history embodying the exchanges between the people from the various ethnic groups over a period of 2,000 years.
The feudal governments established prefectures and migrated people to the border area. The garrison troops and the peasants opened up wasteland to offer the military supply. The administrative personnel, officers, soldiers and immigrants brought advanced culture from the central Plain and other parts of China. This promoted the cultural exchanges among ethnic groups.
The wall built in Han Dynasty (206B.C to 220A.D.) played a major role in safeguarding East-West communication route. The Famous Silk Road was along the Wall in west part of China. Chinese silk products were exported to Central Asia and Mediterranean Sea. At the same time, the woolen textiles, melons, fruits and jewelers from Western countries were shipped to China. Buddhism came to China via the Silk Road over 2,000 years ago, which exerted a strong impact on ancient Chinese social ideology. Many art treasure houses were left still remaining today along the Silk Road such as Maijishan Grottoes and Dunhuang Grottoes in Guansu province.
In Chinese literature since ancient time, poems, lyrics, novels and couplets had been written to praise the Wall. The works imbued with a spirit that can conquer mountains and rivers. Chinese scientists even used the ruins of the Wall to research changes of rivers, to research earthquakes and to guide conservancy projects.
Now the contradictions between different powers have gone forever and the Wall has fulfilled its duty as military defense project and becomes a famous tourist’s site with beautiful scenery. The Wall is a symbol of the spirit of diligence, strong will power, and creative wisdom of different ethnic groups of China. The wall attracts the people from all over the world and bridges the friendship between China and foreign countries.
Love China and repair the Great Wall
In the Qing Dynasty (1644A.D.-1911A.D), the government ceased to repair and reconstruct the Wall. So hundreds of years of attack by rain and wind and destruction by local people made the Wall dilapidated.
In 1952, after the New China founded, the government appropriated funds to repair some Mountain Passes of the Wall with sightseeing value. Badaling, Juyongguan Pass, which are in Beijing, ShanhaiGuan Pass in Liaoning and Jiayuguan pass in Gansu were repaired to open to tourists.
However, repairing is a tremendous engineering task with great cost and it is impossible to meet the need of maintains of the Wall for the quickly increasing tourists by solely relying on the government fund. Guided by the opening and reforming policy, in 1984 sponsored by Beijing Evening News, the Administration Office of the Badaling Special Area and Beijing Daily, Social donations from every source were begun to collect to repair the Wall. The late President Deng Xiaoping wrote inscription “Love China Repair the Great Wall” for this meaningful activity. Overseas Chinese, foreign personages, foreign government leaders and common people from China and abroad with great passion donated money. So the repairing went on smoothly and the Wall becomes the tie to link the hearts of the peace-loving people of the world.
Lady Menjiang crying on the Great Wall When we mentioned the Great Wall, the story of “Lady Mengjiang cried over the Great Wall” was spontaneously on lips. When the Emperor Qinshihuang had the Wall built 2000 years ago. So many laboring people were press ganged to work in north part of China.
Lady Mengjiang’s husband Fanxiliang was seized to serve as a forced labor to build the Wall only three days after their marriage. They were very miserable but had no choice. Swallows came and went and three years passed by. But there was no information from her husband. One cold winter night, Lady Mengjiang had a dream that her husband came back trembling all over and saying” Shut the door, I am frozen and starving to death”. She couldn’t help missing her husband and decided to look for him the next day. Taking some clothes and food for her husband, she went straight northward to the Wall. She walked for 49 days and climbed 99 mountains and overcame so many hardships, at last she arrived at the construction site of the Wall. Seeing many people living an animal’s life and working under a strict supervision, she worried about her husband. She asked almost every people she met about her husband, but failed again and again to get the news of him. Finally she was informed that her husband died three months ago and he was buried under the Wall. The bad news like a sudden bolt from the blue sky made her heart broken. She cried bitter tears until she fell into swoon. Suddenly the Great Wall collapsed and out came her husband’s corpse. She wiped off her tears and wrapped her husband’s corpse.
Hearing the news, Emperor Qingshihuang dispatched soliders to arrest Lady Mengjiang. The emperor hated her and wanted to severely punish her. But when the emperor saw her and struck by her beauty. The emperor had 3000 concubines, but none could rival Lady Mengjiang. The emperor wanted her to be concubine.
Lady Mengjing witnessed the emperor’s atrocity and decided to revenge for her husband. So she answered the request, but listed her prerequisites: first, a mourning altar must be built for her husband; second, the emperor must be dressed in mourning clothes to have the funnel ceremony for her husband; third, a boat must be arranged for her to have a cruise. The emperor agreed her first and third prerequisites immediately. But as the second, the emperor was unwilling to do because if the emperor wore the mourning clothes and have the funnel ceremony for her husband that would be to say he was the son of her husband. How could he do such a thing as the supreme emperor? But when the emperor saw her graceful face and charming characters, he cared about nothing. He finally consented to all three conditions.
After the funnel, lady Mengjiang boarded a luxury boat with the emperor to take a cruise on the sea. When the emperor was enjoying at the thought of marrying the beautiful Lady Mengjiang he was so happy. But Lady Mengjiang pushed the emperor to the sea when he relaxed his vigilance. Of course she also jumped into the sea. Unfortunately the guards saved the emperor. Lady Mengjiang was drowned to death.
Later a temple was built to remember this brave lady. Some scholar wrote a tasteful couplet on the doorposts of the temple gate. The couplet reads like this:
The sea tides rise. They rise every early morning. They rise and ebb in the constant and same way.
The floating clouds gather. They often gather. They keep on gathering and dispersing everyday.
Of course this story is a fiction but it reflects the construction of the Wall really brought heavy burdens to common people. A lot of people died of hard work on the Great Wall. So the Wall in China was not only made of stones and bricks but also made of flesh and blood.

The Forbidden City
The Tiananmen Square
The Summer Palace
The Great Wall
The Ming Tombs
The Lama Temple
The Hutong Tour
The Panda Bear Zoo
The Temple of Heaven
Beijing Olympic Green


 

 

 


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