Beijing – Great Wall of China

Beijing, the capital city of the People’s Republic of China, is a mysterious and exotic city to most of the visitors. With an area of 16800 square kilometers Beijing is one of the six ancient cities of China. First built as a small garrison town it  became the political, economic, cultural as well as educational center and has served as the capital of the country for more than 800 years.                                                                                                         Beijing boasts many world-famous architectural wonders, precious artifacts and historical monuments: Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Ming tombs, Temple of Heaven among others. We will explore the Great Wall today.                                         The Great Wall of China, one of the greatest wonders of the world, was listed as a World Heritage by UNESCO in 1987. Like a giant dragon, the Great Wall winds up and down across deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus, stretching approximately 8,851.8 kilometers (5,500 miles) from east to west of China.It is known as “long Wall of 10,000 Li” in China. (A “li” is a Chinese length unit, 2 li are equal to 1 km.) In places the Wall is 25 feet tall and ranges from 15 to 30 feet in width.                                                                         With a history of more than 2000 years, some of the sections are now in ruins or have disappeared. However, it is still one of the most appealing attractions all around the world owing to its architectural grandeur and historical significance.

 Built as a protective military structure, it now draws millions of tourists to China each year.                                                                                                               The Great Wall of China is not a continuous wall but is a collection of short walls. It is believed that the earliest wall was built under the rule of Emperor Qin, who successfully unified parts of China around 221 BC. Early emperors had built walls in the northern territories to protect their nations against attack from outside forces. These walls were spread across the landscape and not connected but Emperor Qin sought to connect the walls to provide defences against northern invaders. He ordered the building of the “Wan Li Chang Cheng” or the Great Wall as we know it today. Over the centuries that followed each dynasty did more work to maintain and develop the wall.                                                           The Ming dynasty (1368-1644) carried out a major rebuilding project extending the Great Wall, which resulted in a 6000 kilometre wall which is what is mainly in evidence today. It is believed that the main purpose of the Great Wall was to protect China from invasion or attack by northern tribes (such as the Mongols). The Great Wall included a series of watch towers and forts which could house soldiers, grain and weapons. Beacons could enable the passing of messages quickly along the wall. Special weapons were developed to enable the wall to be defended against attack, replicas of which are on display on the modern day wall. At one time it is thought that up to 1 million soldiers were stationed along the length of the wall!  Other purposes of the Great Wall included border control practices, such as check points to regulate or encourage trade as well as to control immigration and emigration.                                                                                                                                                     The Great Wall which is mainly in evidence today was actually built during the Ming dynasty, over a period of around 200 years.  When the Ming rulers were overthrown in 1644, no further work was done on the Wall until recent years in attempts to preserve parts of the structure.

There are a lot of sections of the Wall snaking across the northen mountains around Beijing. Most of the sections of the remaining Wall have their own names usually based geographic location or a historical factor. The wall sections that are closest to Beijing and   most easily visited are Ba Da Ling and Juyong Guan, while Mutianyu, Jin Shan Ling, and the vertiginous Simatai require a full day’s outing.

Juyongguan: 60km northwest from Beijing, closest section, heavily renovated, steep. is the nearest section of the Great Wall to Beijing – a little nearer than BaDaLing.There is a temple and other attractions close by. Connected with Ba Da Ling Wall in the north, this section of the wall has the grand Juyongguan Pass which is one of the three great passes of the Great Wall ( the other two are Jiayuguan and Shanaiguan).

Badaling: 80km northwest from Beijing, busy, popular, breathtaking veiw of the wall winding. .The most popular due to proximity to the city but also most crowded section. Most tourist buses come here. This part of the wall is also wheelchair-friendly,the only accessible section of the Wall around Beijing. A special flat lane is built for wheelchair users to get to the third watch tower of the Great Wall. It also has two elevators for easy ascending but it should be booked in advance

Mutianyu: 85km north of Beijing, green, wonderful scenery. a little further out but less crowded. This section is also fully restored with guard rails on the steep sections and overall a less commercial experience than Badaling. Recommended for small children and elderly.

Changyucheng Great Wall: 100km northwest of Beijing downtown. Located at the cross connection of northwest of Changping and Huailai County in Hubei province, Changyucheng Great Wall has a length of 8 km (4.968 miles) which is the section with the highest altitude in Beijing. Its highest watch tower is about 1460 meters (4790.26 ft) in height. The unique roundness watch tower in Beijing can be seen from Changyucheng Great Wall. There is an ancient village at Changyucheng Great Wall called Changyu Village which still keeps the original village style and features without extensive tourist receptions. Changyu Village was used as castle for military use in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) so it still keeps the ancient castle walls and city gate. The amalgamation of the Great Wall and the ancient village culture is a unique charm of Changyucheng Great Wall.

Simatai: 140km northeast of Beijing, rugged, steep and hazardous, more remote and in a more “natural” state. Rougher conditions  You can hike from Simatai to Jinshanling or viceversa in about 4 hours.

Jinshanling: 150km northeast of Beijing, wild, rugged, steep and hazardous. A good place for hikers

The Great Wall offers a timeless charm to tourists, but scenery varies with seasons. Visit it in different time you will get a quite different scene. In general, it’s most desirable to visit when the weather is mild. Beijing has hot summers and cold winters, so spring and fall are the most comfortable. Summer provides beautiful green foliage, and late fall (October) provides beautiful autumn colors. Winter brings snow which presents the Great Wall in a whole new spectacular way.

There is a longstanding disagreement about how visible the wall is from the space. This myth has persisted, assuming urban legend status, sometimes even entering school textbooks. The Great Wall simply cannot be seen by the unaided eye from the distance of the moon. Even its visibility from near-earth orbit is questionable. No lunar astronaut has ever claimed to have seen the Great Wall from the moon.

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