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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Pass Great Wall
Pass Great Wall
Pass Great Wall
More Detailed Stories about China Great
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
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
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
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
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
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
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