GREAT WALL of CHINA at Beijing
The Great Wall of China should rightly be considered a Wonder of the
World for its sheer length and the time and labor spent to enact a
protective barrier for the ancient Chinese. For many years it was
considered the only man-made structure visible from the moon, but this
is now found to be a myth, as astronauts including the first Chinese
astronaut, Yang Liwei, reported that it could not be seen from space. Though considered the work
of the Qin Shihuangdi秦始皇帝,
the first Emperor of China, it was already
started some three hundred years earlier in shorter segments. It is said that the word ¡°China¡± came
from Qin 秦 , also spelt ¡°Chin¡±,
the kingdom of Qin Shihuangdi.
The First Emperor, on unifying China in 221 BC, destroyed the walls that
divided the previous seven contending kingdoms of the Warring States Period,
and joined up the various northern walls of the previous states of Qin, Zhao
and Yan into what is called the Great Wall of China.
Succeeding dynasties repaired and re-construct sections of the wall, the last
and most durable being the wall of the Ming Dynasty. In the final analysis, the
Great Wall is the accumulated effort of many Chinese rulers and millions of
unknown Chinese who lost their lives in erecting this 6000 mile long structure.
For foreign visitors, it is said that if
one has not climbed the Great Wall, one has not been to China. For the Chinese, it is said
that a true Chinese is one who has seen the Great Wall. The Great Wall is also
a monument of mankind to be shared with the world. Stretching in the West at
in Gansu Province on the Silk
Road, the Great Wall winds its way eastwards till it reaches the Yalu River
in north-east Manchurian China, a distance of some 6000 kms. Another eastern branch of the Great Wall
terminates at Laolongtou老龍頭 (Old Dragon's Head) at the sea coast 5 km beyond
Shanhaiguan山海關 (Mountain-Sea Pass).
To the ancient Chinese, westward from the
Jiayuguan, the western gate of the Great Wall, was considered the end of
civilization; the pass also called the Last Gate under Heaven. To the north of
the Great Wall would be nomadic tribes who were raiders and considered
uncivilized. Hence, the Chinese psyche placed the wall as the dividing line between
the comfort zone of the civilized empire and the uncivilized unknown of the
wild inhospitable nomadic steppes. It is immortalized in poems and in paintings
through the ages. There are also photographic enthusiasts who want to portray
the beauty of parts of the Great Wall throughout the seasons.
Qian wrote in the Records of the Historian史記 (Shiji), that under
the order of Qin Shihuangdi, ¡°General Meng Tian蒙恬mobilized 300,000 soldiers¡
and built a Great Wall which followed the contour of
the land, taking advantage of natural defenses.¡± Apparently, an additional
500,000 conscript laborers were recruited as well. The wall was improved upon
by the succeeding Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), which built a separate 10,000 km
wall, longer and to the north of the Qin wall. Unfortunately, the Han wall later
fell into neglect and ruin.
the Northern Qi北齊 (550-577),
over one and a half million men were mobilized to build the sector from
JuyongGuan to Datong
in the west. The Sui Dynasty also called up a million conscripts for Great Wall
repair and construction. Even widows
were not spared when their menfolk died. However, the Great Wall was neglected
by the Tang Dynasty, confident of repelling its northern neighbors without its
use, while the Song Dynasty lost the northern part of China to the
Liao遼Kingdom or Khitans契丹 (916-1125)
and the Jin金Kingdom or Jurchens/Nuzhen女真 (1115-1234). Apparently the word for China, ¡°Cathay¡±,
came from Khitan.
next phase of the re-construction of the
Great Wall came with the fall of the Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty in 1368, when Ming
Dynasty founder, Zhu Yuanzhang朱元璋 (1328-1398), entrusted the
work to his general, Xu Da 徐达 . This earlier Ming re-construction was
followed up in 1568 by the Ming Generals, Tan Lun譚綸 (1520-1577) and Qi Jiguang戚继光 (1528-1587),
and most of the well preserved parts of the Great Wall at Beijing are due to these two men.
Shanhaiguan we see today at the Bohai on the eastern end, was built during the
Ming Dynasty, and is not the original Qin/Han Dynasty wall. There was an old
fortress at Shanhaiguan during the Northern Qi
period, but it had been destroyed. The present Shanghaiguan was the pass that
the Ming Dynasty general, Wu Sangui 吳三桂 , in
1644 allowed the Manchu army under General Doergun 多爾袞to
pass through to counter the rebel army of Li Zicheng李自成.
With the defeat of the rebels and the Ming remnants, the Manchus decided to
stay for good and ruled China
as the Qing 清 (not
Dynasty from 1644 till 1911.
of the Great Wall
On the Great Wall one can look to the northern
rough terrain of the ancient invaders, and to the east and west the wall
winding its way from peak to peak. The difficulty of constructing the wall was
compounded by locating it at the steepest of terrains to offer a commanding
strategic advantage, the beacon towers being built atop the peaks.
The materials used differed according to the
location and the terrain. Unlike the Qin and Han walls in which sand, earth, clay,
reed, wood, tiles and stones were used, the Ming artisans fifteen centuries
later were using lime, bricks and stone slabs. In certain sections of the wall,
to ensure a good standard of the bricks, each manufacturer had to emboss his bricks
with his name and date of manufacture. Stone slabs had to be cut and
transported from the quarries, and the bigger 3 meter long stone slabs seen at
Badaling and JuyongGuan weighed 1000 kg and took much effort to be
transported to site.
The first stage of the Ming wall building was
to erect the two sides of the wall, followed by the filling of the space in
between. The base had a longer width than the top of the wall. Bricks and stop
slabs were then place on top of the fill-in as pavements for the rampart and
steps. The beacon towers were then built
with the upper floor for look-out and the lower floor for cannons. To prevent
erosion by rain, drainage openings were designed. The tedious work in the face
of poor nutrition, cold, heat, rain and enemy attacks took a heavy toll on the
workers. It was estimated that the demanding Ming wall would require a hundred
workers for each of the worker of the Qin/Han wall.
The Great Wall¡¯s main defensive purpose was as a signaling outpost more
than a standing army garrison. Many
sections of the wall were in desolate places, and food and quarters had to be supplied via
narrow paths to the wall where they are pulled over the side in baskets. Hence,
it was not possible to have troops stationed in big numbers to anticipate an
attack. The fast riding nomadic
horsemen to the north of China
could congregate and attack any section of the wall and breach at will.
However, with the alarm given at any sector, reinforcement could be sent to
counter the attack.
The Chinese had a system of smoke signal in
which one smoke was for 100 enemies, two smokes for 500 and three smokes for
1000. An attack could thus be communicate for a
thousand km within a few hours. The soldiers had to colect straw and wolf dung
in ready for signal fires. Apparently, wolf dung was easily available, and it
gave good upright smoke. In 1468, the Ming standardized the warning signals
with cannon shots in addition to the smokes.
No Great Wall story can be complete without mentioning
the legend of a lady called Meng Jiangnu 孟姜女 , who
went seeking for her husband at the Great Wall. Having made a coat to protect
her husband from the northern cold, she found that her husband had died while
helping to construct the wall, and was entombed under the Great Wall. She cried
with so much sorrow that heavens took pity on her. A section of the wall then broke
off, exposing her husband¡¯s remains so she could offer him a decent burial. She
then took her own life by drowning to join her husband in the afterlife. A
temple was erected at Shanghaiguan to honor this lady, though there is no
historically authenticated person of her name. Her story apparently appeared
during the Tang Dynasty.
the Great Wall at Beijing
Beijing is protected by the Taihang and Yanshan
mountain ranges to its west and north. Three passes separate the Beijing/Hebei area from
the steppes of Mongolia and
Manchuria viz. Gubeikou and JuyongGuan just north of Beijing,
and Shanhaiguan 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望京石 (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
These solid looking parts of the Great Wall
to the north of Beijing
will give good and memorable photographs, but wear some warm clothing against
the chilling wind. At Badaling,
JuyongGuan and Mutianyu, drinks, snacks, fruits, souvenirs, VCDs and books are
available, but be prepared with the correct money change and remember which
tour guide you come with.
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八达岭 (Eight Prominent Peaks, also interpreted as 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 eight to ten 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
sections of the wall were in desolate places, and food and quarters were
supplied via narrow paths to the wall where they are pulled over the side in
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 a 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
For those few visitors
arriving by train at the nearby Qinglongqiao station, they will not fail to see
the bronze statue of engineer, Zhan Tianyou詹天佑(1860-1919). He built the Beijing-Baotou railway
line through the mountainous terrain when the Americans and Europeans refused
to support the construction. Zhan was
born in Guangdong, and at the age of eleven
years was sent to a select school to prepare him for a future study in
engineering at Yale
University in 1878. He
returned to China
in 1881, became chief engineer in 1905, and completed the railway line in 1909,
two years ahead of time. This was an engineering achievement in China, matched almost sixty years later by the
construction of the Nanjing
Bridge. Zhan Tianyou is
honored with a museum at Badaling and his story has been made into a popular
film released in 2000.
Juyong Guan居庸關 (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. It was first mentioned in a second century
BC philosophical book called HuaiNanzi 淮南子as one of the great nine
passes in the competing kingdoms of China. Juyong Pass
was also said to have been used in the Qin Dynasty when the First Emperor, Qin
Shihuangdi started 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 雲塔 (Yuntai)
complex built in 1345, 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).
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" 過街塔 (Guojieta).
A temple called TaiAn Si 太安寺 (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.
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 庸 indicated a common and inferior status, hence Juyong 居庸 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
laborers 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 Jurchens or 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 Jurchens to overwhelm them and to take Beijing, which became the
capital of the Jurchens 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 成吉思汗, 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.
the 20 year old Ming Zhengtong Emperor正統 was gullible
enough to allow his eunuch tutor, Wang Zhen王振 , 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土木堡, where the Emperor was himself captured by the Mongol
leader Esen也先 , 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天順in
a coup in 1457.
Again in 1549,
another Mongol leader, Altan Khan阿拉坦汗 , 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 to the Ordos.
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.
There are many poems mentioning Juyong Pass.
Yuan Dynasty poet, Chen Fu 陳孚 (1240-1303), typifies
the officials sent on military or civil service to the Great Wall regions and
he described in his poem Juyong Pass 居庸關his sadness at passing through
Juyong on his journey into Mongolia. Other poets who had written about Juyong
Pass are Tang Dynasty poet GaoShi高適 , Song Dynasty poet
Wang Yuanliang 汪元量, Jin Dynasty (Jurchen) poet
Yu Wen Xu Zhong宇文虛中, Yuan Dynasty poets Gong Kui 貢奎, Liu Gui柳貴, Jie Xisi 揭係斯, Zhou Boqi周伯琦, Sa Duci薩都刺, Nai Xian 迺賢, Ming Dynasty poets
Zheng Luo 鄭珞, Xu Tianxi許天錫, Xie Zhen謝榛, Li Zongshi李宗樞, Su Shi蘇祏, Liu Kan劉侃, Wang Ou王謳 and Qing Dynasty
poets Gu Yanwu顧炎武, Qu Dajun屈大均 and Li Zhonghua 李重華. (Please note that
the Su Shi of Yuan Dynasty is a lesser poet and not the famous Su Shi also
called Su Dongpo of the Song Dynasty.)
Mutianyu, 慕田峪located at Huairou county 79 km northeast
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.
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曹操during the Three Kingdom
Period defeated his opponent Yuan Shao袁紹. The Mutianyu section
was later redesigned and strengthened by Ming General, Qi Jiguang, Military
Superintendent of Jizhou蓟州 .
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.
the highest position one can see Beijing
from a tower called Wangjinglou望京樓 (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 金山岭 (Gold Mountain), equally far as Simatai,
is at Ruanping 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 金山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.
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黃花城 (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, 蔡凱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金湯to be carved into a large rock at Huanghuacheng. The character
金 (metal) denotes the
hardness of metal, and the character 湯 (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.
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.
(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臥虎 (Lying Tiger) mountain, it was
originally called Hubeikou 虎北口. 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楊業 (??-986), a famous Song
Dynasty general whose 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
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
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 箭口(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 section 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
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.
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蕭顯 wrote the famous five characters in
Chinese天下第一城 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
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
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.