GREAT WALL OF CHINA NEAR BEIJING: BADALING, MUTIANYU, SIMATAI, JINSHANLING AND SHANHAIGUAN

GREAT WALL OF CHINA NEAR BEIJING

From east to west, starting at the Bohai Sea, the sections of the Great Wall that are nearest to Beijing are Shanhaiguan, Simatai, Jinshanling, Mutianyu, Badaling and Jiayuguan. They are all popular tourist attractions, with Badaling being the most popular followed by Mutianyu.. Badaling Mutianyu and Jinshanling are the the best preserved parts of the wall close to Beijing. Badaling is the most popular because of its easy access and local facilities.

A number of resorts have sprung up at differing sport along the wall accessible to Beijing. There are also backpacking tours that follow sections of the wall by day and stay in traditional courtyard houses at night. One of these starts at Sun Cha village near Mutianyu that embraces a lot of walking though countryside with views of the wall rather than walks along the wall itself,

Some sections of the Great Wall are very commercialized (See Badaling and Mutianyu Below). These days authorities are trying to cut down on commercialism. There are now rules that ban business activity within 100 meters of the wall. But the drive to make money is even stronger. In 2006, a fight broke on border of Hebei and Beijing, with punches thrown, over who could charge tourist fees. Five people were injured.

Great Wall at Badaling

Badaling (70 kilometers northwest of Beijing, north of Yanqing County at the head of the Juyongguan Pass) is the best restored section of the Great Wall. This section was originally built in 1505 and is very accessible for travelers who are short on time or are not into long hikes This section is made of large blue bricks and has an average height of 7.8 meters. Five to six horses can be ridden abreast along it. At regular intervals there is an arched door giving access to the top of the wall. The walls feature regular lookout holes, window embrasures and castellated crenels. Beacon towers for passing on military information also appear at fixed intervals. All of these emphasize the important role of the Great Wall in military defense.

The Badaling section of the Great Wall was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644). Carefully restored and was opened to visiting tourists in late 1957. Badaling was built at a strategic pass north of Beijing and opened as a tourist sight in 1957. It is well-maintained and has relatively gradual steps.. Over the years countless other leaders and VIPs have been given the red carpet treatment while ordinary tourists are cleared away. It is even possible to rent out sections of the wall here to host parties. A number of foreign corporations doing business in China have done this.

Badaling is a good place to see the Great Wall because it sits high on a mountain pass, where miles of the wall can be seen. The dimensions of the Great Wall at Badaling are typical of those found at other sections. The wall is 26 feet high, 22 feet wide at the bottom and 19 feet wide at the top---wide enough to accommodate five horseman riding side by side or ten soldiers marching shoulder to shoulder.

The guard towers, set up at regular intervals, were used as sentry posts and living quarters for the soldiers. The guard towers perched on the higher hills communicated with one another using smoke signals made with wolf dung during the day and fire signals at night. Some sections of the wall have stairs and are quite steep. There are modern hand rails.

Location: Yanqing County, 70 kilometers from Beijing's city proper; Tel: +86-10-69121235/69121338; Admission: 45 yuan for adults, 20 yuan for students; Getting There: A round trip taxi from Beijing costs around $75. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet By Bus: Buses to Badaling depart hourly from the entrance of the Beijing zoo.Tourist Bus No.s 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5; or Bus No. 919 from Deshengmen Bus Station; The ticket is 7-12 yuan per person. By Car: Drive along the Badaling Expressway via Madian Overpass;

Juyongguan Great Wall North of Changping in Changping District; Tel: +86-10-69771665; Admission: 45 yuan; Getting There: By Bus: Bus No. 919 from Deshengmen; or Tourist Bus No. s 1-5; By Car: Drive along the Badaling Expressway;

Tourism at the Great Wall at Badaling

The main drawback with Badaling that it is often chock a block with tourists (if you arrive early enough you can usually avoid them) and souvenir hawkers, selling everything from ancient artifacts to “Extra Special Water.” On the wall itself at the height of the tourist season it is often so crowded it is hard to take a step without interfering with someone’s picture. If you keep walking the crowds start to thin out after about a kilometer as one approaches the unrestored sections.

Great Wall at Badaling is by far the most popular part of the Great Wall of China. By some estimates it is where 75 percent of tourists who come to see the Great Wall of China actually see it. Richard Nixon and the United States Ping Pong team were photographed here when China began opening up to the West in 1970s. When U.S. President Richard Nixon visited he said, “This is a Great Wall and only a great people with a great past could have a great wall and such a great people with such a great wall will surely have a great future.”

Around 4.5 to 5 million people visit Great Wall at Badaling each year and they spend an estimated $100 million on souvenirs, entrance fees, restaurant food, Kentucky fried chicken, and pay toilets. The site draws up to 55,000 visitors a day. There is even a cable car to the top of the Badaling section.

Badaling is very commercialized. The road to Badaling is often swollen with traffic. It has amusement rides, a run-down zoo, cheesy museums, antique shops and the Great Wall Circle-Vision theater. Tourists can have their picture taken on the back of a camel, or dressed in the robes of Manchu prince. There is also an auditorium that shows films about the Great Wall. At Badaling Wildlife World safari park visitors can pay $3.60 to watch a live chicken thrown to the lions. The price for a sheep is $36.

Kiosks sell "I Climbed the Great Wall" T-shirts, Deng Xiaoping cigarette lighters, talking panda dolls, cuckoo clocks that play "The East is Red," reclining plastic Buddhas with light bulbs in their mouths, Deng Xiaoping pocket watches with the character for long life printed 100 times on the back, and alarm clocks with a Red Guard waiving her Little Red Book, green stone Buddhas, Great Wall baseball caps and parchment documents that certify your visit to the wall was authentic.

For people who don’t want to make the 3,000-foot climb to the wall’s highest point there are sedan chairs carried by young men in Machu-era costumes and a cable car that plays loud Chinese pop music. There is bluish-green canopy that winds up to the wall. It covers a kind of amusement park ride that pulls visitors up to the wall. In March 2009 a man was killed by a tiger when he climbed into the tiger enclosure in the safari park, thinking he had fund a shortcut down from the Great Wall.

Great Wall at Mutianyu

Great Wall at Mutianyu (90 kilometers northeast of Beijing) is less crowded than the section at Badaling but has become more crowded and commercialized in recent years. Opened in 1986 and connecting the Gubuikou Gateway to the east and the Juyongguan Pass to the west, it is much narrower (10 feet wide) than the section at Badaling. It was renovated beginning in 1983, and designated by the Beijing Government in 1987 as one of the 16 most scenic spots in China.

Mutianyu is known for its fine architecture and forested landscape. It was begun in A.D. 600 and reconstructed 1,000 years later. The main section stretches for 2.5 kilometers, and is punctuated by 22 watchtowers, including three connected bastions to the lowest part of the pass. Mutianyu featured as the Northern barrier of the Great Wall and offered protection to the city and the Imperial tombs. The style of architecture is quite unique and is rarely found in other sections of the 6,000-kilometer-long Great Wall.

Robert Hillard wrote in the New York Times, the wall at Mutianyu "winds through the mountains as far as the eye can see, curving, rising and descending with the contours of the valley and the hills...Only a short section of the wall is open to the west, toward Badaling but several miles are open to the east...Along the way are small towered enclosures, some connecting to the next part of the wall, others jutting out over the valley. Some parts of the wall are high above the ground level and other parts are so low that you can reach over the side and almost touch the ground."

Ski lifts, with blaring Chinese pop music, cross the Mutianyu valley to the wall ramparts at the top of the mountain. In 1998 a toboggan ride was opened it. It features sled-like cars that zoom down a mile-long, bobsled-like aluminum track. Adults may not like these new additions but kids getting dragged from sight to sight by their parents love them. More and more souvenir stands are popping up all the time. If you have the money you can rent the Great Wall for a dinner party here. There is a guesthouse on one of the towers.

Getting There: Mutianyu can reached by buses that depart from the entrance of the Worker's Stadium or tour buses and private minibuses that originate from hotels in Beijing. A round trip taxi from Beijing costs around $35 and $60. Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet

Location: Huairou District, Tel: +86-10-61626873/61626022; Admission: 35 yuan; Getting There: By Bus: Tourist Bus No. 6 from Xuanwumen, Qianmen and Dongsi Shitiao; or take Bus No. 916 from Dongzhimen to Huairou, and then change to a local bus or hire a taxi (17 km);

Great Wall at Simatai

Great Wall at Simatai (110 kilometers northeast of Beijing) is one of the best places to climb around on the walls on your own and enjoy the wall in a relatively unspoiled state as its winds spectacularly through rocky crags and cliffs. Sections have fanciful names like the Fairy Tower and Heavenly Ladder. Some sections are extremely steep and are not recommended for those scared of heights. There are steep drops offs and cliffs to the side of the wall and some sections of the wall haven’t been restored and are bit crumbly.

he Simatai section was originally built in the Qi dynasty over 1500 years ago. During the time of the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) the 5 kilometer section of the Great Wall received a face lift and to date is one of the best examples of the traditional Ming style. Simatai was regarded as a key strategic point on the Eastern side of the Great Wall; visitors can view all the way to Beijing from the Wangjinglou watch tower. Simatai is more rugged and less developed than other sections of the Great Wall and attracts fewer tourist visits as a moderate level of fitness is required due to the terrain. It is this terrain that tells of an interesting story of the Simatai sections creation – with mountain goats used to carry bricks, one by one across the difficult landscape.

Simatai has been developed for day trippers. There are souvenir stands set up in the parking lot where the buses arrive, a tourist office, a few restaurants and a scary ride in which people zoom down a cable on flimsy-looking little harnesses high above the ground over a lake. A ski lift leads to one of the tower. The walls themselves are reached after a half hour walk from the visitors center. To the right the walls climbs steeply along a rugged, dizzying ridge. The further one gooes the more crumbly and dangerous the wall gets.

To the left a trail follows along sections on top of the wall that lead to Jinshanling about 10 kilometers away. Many people hike this section, usually starting in Jinshanling and finishing in Simatai, (See Below). Hikers are periodically accosted by peasants selling postcards and souvenirs. Sometimes they act as guides and expect tourists to buy something at the end of their stint. Most are subsistence farmers, who can earn four or five dollars selling stuff on a good day. There is a snack bar on one section of the wall. Primitive guesthouse have been set up in watch towers for those who want to stay the night. Getting There: Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet

Location: Gubeikou Town, Miyun County. Tel: +86-10-69031051/69035025; Admission: 40 yuan; Getting There: By Bus: Tourist Bus No. 12 from Xuanwumen and Dongsi Shitiao; or take a bus from Dongzhimen to Miyun and then change to a local bus or hire a taxi.

Great Wall at Jinshanling

Great Wall at Jinshanling (115 kilometers from Beijing, and 10 kilometers from the Simatai) is an in impressive section of the Great Wall with 158 towers and terraces. Built in 1567 under the supervision of one of China's most famous generals, Xu Da, the wall zigzags it way across a series of green mountains. Among the well-preserved structures are square sentry turrets, battlements, and beacon towers. Among its unique features are warehouses, shops with columns made of ground brick and towers with window frames made granite and carved marble. Many of have been restored in recent years. Getting There: Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet

Jinshanling is one of the larger sections of the Beijing Great Wall at 11 kilometers. The best restoration work has been done close to the entry point at Jinshanling, the Wall deteriorates to its original condition the closer it nears Simatai. The Great Wall at Jinshanling (Jinshan Ridge) lies at the juncture between Bake Shiying Town, Luanping County, Chengde City of Hebei Province and Miyun County of Beijing. It is the best reserved section of the Great Wall built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in China at present.

Starting from Longyukou in the west and the Wangjing Tower in the east, it covers a total length of 10.5 km, and is home to 5 passes, 67 towers and 2 beacon towers. Climbing up Wangjing Tower, the highest place of the Jinshan Ridge, one can witness the profile of Beijing at dawn and the countless lights in Beijing at night. Looking all around, in the east is the dim Wuling Mountain, in the west the Wohu Ridge stands lofty and firm, in the south is the Miyun Reservoir with shining waves and in the north are the mountains and forests. The tall and beautiful mountains render a magnificent view.

Location: On the border between Beijing's Miyun County and Hebei's Luanping County; Admission: 30 yuan; Getting There: Take a bus from Dongzhimen to Miyun and then change to a local bus or hire a taxi.

Great Wall Hike Between Simatai and Jinshanling

Great Wall Hike Between Simatai and Jinshanling is one of the better outing that one can do will staying in Beijing. The ten kilometer hike is almost completely on the wall itself. There are some steep ups and downs but nothing that is too difficult or too scary for vertigo sufferers. The hike can be done either way but most people start in Jinshanling and finish in Simatai, with their tour bus dropping them off and picking them up.

The walls are mostly ruins, especially on the Simatai side. Around Jinshanling sections of the wall and towers have been carefully restored. There is even a souvenir shop and guesthouse in one of the towers. There are many peasant farmer touts. Some are quite persistent and won’t leave you alone until you buy something. Those that sell cold drinks on hot days offer some welcome relief.

Getting There: You can reach Simitai and Jinshanling by catching a minibus at Dongzhimen stadium. Many of those who do this hike do so as part of a tour organized by the hostels in Beijing, with a bus picking everybody up in the morning and drops them at Jinshanling after a drive of three hours or so. The hikers hiker to Simatai, where they are picked up and taken back to Beijing and dropped around dinner time.

Jiankou Great Wall

The Jiankou Great Wall (in Huairou County, 73 kilometers north of Beijing) connects with the Mutianyu Great Wall 10 kilometers to the east, and with the Huanghuacheng Great Wall to the west. This section was built in 1368 during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).

The Jiankou (Arrow Lock) Great Wall is built of large white rocks which make this section very prominent from a distance. This major section of this Great Wall is built along a mountain ridge with tall cliffs on each side, and as a result of the lack of repairs, it is now one of the most dangerous sections of the entire Great Wall. Warning: Tourists occasionally lose their bearings here. It is a good idea to use a guide. The area is dangerous, so care should be taken.

Location: Northwest to Zhenzhuquan Village, Bohai Town, Huairou District;; Admission: 10 yuan; Getting There: By Bus: 1) Take tourist Bus No. 6 from Xuanwumen, Qianmen and Dongsi Shitiao; 2) Take Bus No. 916 from Dongzhimen to Huairou, and then change to a local bus or hire a taxi;

Badaling Expressway (G25): Road to the Great Wall of China

The Badaling Expressway (G025) starts as a six-lane divided highway, generally in good condition, and is often used to get to the Great Wall of Chinese. According to ASIRT: After Beijing's Nankou district, road is a four-lane divided highway. Links Beijing with the Badaling section the Great Wall of China. Begins near Madian Bridge on Northern section of Beijing's 3rd Ring Road, and passes through many of Beijing's residential and industrial zones [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2011].

“Due to mountainous terrain, road splits into inbound and outbound sections in Juyongguan. Outbound section has 3 exits to the Great Wall of China; inbound section has none. When traveling inbound, take Exit 20 and follow route to the "Wall." Inbound and outbound sections rejoin after Badaling and continue to Yanqing, where road becomes the Jingzhang Expressway. Some maps include the road in Jingzhang Expressway, a road linking Beijing and Zhangjiakou in Hebei province. Has exits to northern sections of Beijing's 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Ring Roads, Huilongguan, Changping, Nankou, Badaling and Yanqing.

Travel conditions on specific sections: Congestion is most common from Madian to Huilongguan, especially near Shangqing Bridge. Often gridlocked from Madian to Jianxiang. Out-bound traffic often congested from Jianxiang to Qinghe Toll Gate. Expect long waits at Huilongguan exit during rush hours. Travel may be slow traffic after Juyongguan, due to mountainous terrain. On outbound section, fog is common on 49 and 50 kilometers stretches and from Shahe to Xisanqi, especially at night. Road risk is high on sections in urban and suburban Beijing.

Badaling Expressway’s "Valley of Death": An inbound section of Badaling Expressway is known as the "Valley of Death". According to ASIRT: “The 50-55 kilometers section; begins shortly after road splits at Badaling. Section has a high road crash rate. Speed limit drops to 60 60 km/h (37 mph) for light-duty vehicles and 40 km/h (25 mph) for trucks, and is strictly enforced. Speed cameras are numerous; fines are high. Section includes a series of switchbacks (tight, downwardly spiraling curves), indicated by a "serial downgrades" sign. Road safety features include several Emergency "Brake-Fail" areas (upward sloping banks of gravel to slow vehicles that experience a mechanical failure and are unable to slow down or stop). Park near a "Brake-Fail" area when vehicle needs to be checked for any mechanical problems.[Source: ASIRT]

Badaling Expressway Exits for the Great Wall of China: Juyongguan Exit (Exit No. 15): Provides access to The Great Wall at Juyongguan Pass. Shuiguan Exit (Exit No. 16): Provides access to The Great Wall at Shuiguan, a lesser known section of the Wall. Road is extremely steep; allows travelers to see unrepaired sections of the Wall. No return ramp to expressway. Take minor roads back to Juyongguan to continue on expressway. Badaling Exit (Exit No. 18): Leads to Wall's most well known section. Parking may be available. [Source: ASIRT]

Great Wall East of Beijing

Great Wall at Huanghuacheng (60 kilometers north of Beijing) is one of the more spectacular sections of the Great Wall. It is completely unrestored. One 500-year-old watchtower houses a soft drink stand. There is no entrance fee and hikers can hike around as much as they like. There is some discussion of preventing visitors from walking around to protect the wall.

Bai Yangyu contains a section of the Great Wall. There is a giant golden laughing Buddha and a hiking trail decorated with plastic deer. In some section original stones have been taken out and replaced with brand new limestone blocks. Some “restored” sections look like walls found around gardens in suburban communities.

Qinhuangdao (two hours northeast of Beijing) is a seacoast city of 3 million people that hosted a couple 2008 Olympic women’s soccer games. It is near where the Great Wall ends in the Bohai Sea. See Hebei Province factsanddetails.com

Huangyaguan Great Wall

Great Wall at Huangya Pass (Huangyaguan, 100 kilometers northeast of Beijing) was first built in A.D. 556, the 7th year of the Tianbao reign of Emperor Wenxuan of the northern Qi Dynasty. This section of the wall is so beautifully restored it almost looks fake. The battlements are narrower, the bricks are smaller, and the wall itself is higher and narrower than the wall at Badaling. The wall snakes along a ridge of jagged green mountains and is punctuated at regular intervals by rectangular sentry towers. Below the wall in some places are terraces, strongholds and water barriers. The Great Wall Museum is located here. It houses a collection of modern stelaes with inscriptions about the Great Wall.

Huangyaguan Great Wall runs on the ridge of mountains to the north of Ji County, Tianjin. Extending for 42 kilometers (about 26 miles), It was initially built in Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577) and later renovated and lengthened in Sui Dynasty (581-618) and again during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). It has suffered extensive damage over its long history. In 1987, it was repaired and began welcoming tourists. [Source: travelchinaguide.com July 25, 2007]

The Huangyaguan Great Wall is regarded as an 'Impregnable Pass' in Tianjin. This section is the longest restored section of the Great Wall with a length of 3052 meters (about 3337 yards). The wall has two sections: Huangyaguan and Taipingzhai. Guancheng (Pass City) is the center of the Huangyaguan section. Guancheng is the homeof Bagua Village (The Eight Diagrams Village), built in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) according to the Eight Diagrams created by Fuxi (an ancient tribal leader). It is easy enough to get in, but getting out is another matter as you can easily find yourself in a dead end or just circling around with no obvious way out. Taipingzhai is located to the southeast of Huangyaguan. Guafu Tower (Widow Tower) is situated to the west of it. Guafu Tower is a square watchtower. It was said that during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) 12 widows of frontier soldiers donated their pension and built this tower. People named it Widow Tower as a memorial to these women.

Tourism at Huangyaguan Great Wall

During the 1980s, while the Huangyaguan Great Wall was being restored, some facilities were built there., including Huangyaguan Great Wall Museum and the Stele Forest. The Stele Forest is the biggest in northern China. Stele inscriptions show the calligraphy of Chairman Mao, some generals of New China and modern calligraphers.

Huangyaguan Great Wall Museum contains 338 items, including firearms, stone cannons, Great Wall bricks, stele carvings, weapons used by a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and utensils and other daily use items unearthed from the foot of the Great wall. Huangyaguan Great Wall Museum is the first Great Wall museum in China. In the showroom, tourists can learn about the historical development of the Great Wall. The arms and everyday items of Ming generally Qi Jiguang and his soldiers are displayed. Location: Huangya Pass Great Wall scenic Area, Jixian County, Tianjin Tel: 0086-22-2971-8106

Since 2000, Huangyaguan has hosted the annual Great Wall marathon. More than 1400 people from over 30 countries take part in this race every year. Travel Information: Admission: fee: 40 yuan; Hours Open: 08:00 to 4:00pm

Shanhaiguan Pass

Shanhai Pass (16 kilometers northeast of Qinhuangdao) is located at the eastern terminus of the Great Wall between the Yanshan Mountains and the Bohai Sea. Linking northern China to Manchuria, the pass had strategic and military importance and was the site of many battles. Shanhai Pass gets its name from its geographical location. It between the Yanshan Mountains (Mountain means shan in Chinese) and the Bohai Sea (sea means hai in Chinese).

Hanging from one tower is a huge plaque with five Chinese characters that reads "Number One Pass under Heaven." The magnificent city tower, the inaccessible terrain and the inscriptions found on many of the towers are regarded as the "three uniques" of Shanhai Pass. A few kilometers north, at a section known as Jiaosha, it is possible hike along the wall a considerable distance into the mountains.

Built in 583, Shanhaiguan pass was renovated throughout various dynasties until Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) rulers transformed it into a formidable military stronghold. Acting as the strategic passage between the north and northeastern parts of China, the fortress at Shanhaiguan has been fought over for hundreds of years. It is also considered to be key to the defense of two ancient capitals, Beijing to the east and Chang'an, now Xian, in the west.

Informally known as the "First Pass of The World", Shanhai Pass was the place where Ming general Wu Sangui opened the gates to Manchu forces in 1644, beginning nearly 300 years of Manchu rule; Shanhai Pass also marks the psychological entrance and exit of Manchuria, so that for centuries Manchuria was known as "outside the Pass" or "east of the Pass".

Tourism at Shanhaiguan Pass

Shanhaiguan Pass consists of a main castle, two supporting castles: one in the north and one in the south and two semicircular protective walls that ring the main battlements. The towns of Weiyuan and Ninghai are located nearby. Today most of these structures are still well preserved, while others, such as the wall of Ninghai, the Calm Sea Tower built on the town wall and the Laolongtou Great Wall, where the Great Wall meets the sea, have been restored. The brick wall of the pass, stuffed with earth, is 14 meters high, seven meters wide and four kilometers in circumference. It is connected with the Great Wall which stretches onto the rolling Yanshan Mountains in the north and into the Bohai Sea in the south with parts and battlements that form a strong and powerful defense system.

The Gate Tower houses an exhibition of ancient military uniforms and weapons including a saber that weighs 83 kilos, the heaviest in the country. Once you ascend the tower and take a broad view afar, the serried battlements and the rising mist will take you back to the ancient battlefields of a thousand years ago. On the second floor of the tower visitors can see nearby towers, called ' Weiyuantang Tower', ' Jingbianlou Tower', ' Muyinglou Tower' and ' Linlvlou Tower' — ' Five Tigers Holding the Guandong Region'. The Great Wall Museum under the Pass displays all kinds of archeological data, documents, photographs and exhibits. Various kinds of souvenirs can be purchased in the street below the First Pass under Heaven. "Tianwailou Restaurant" provides local dishes.

Beyond the Shanhaiguan Pass, the Great Wall stretches eastward until it dips into the sea at a place called Laolongtou (Old Dragon's He). Tourist attractions in the vicinity include the Jiaoshan Section which has the Great Wall meandering along the mountain ridges, Shanhaiguan Great Wall Museum which has some interesting pictures, relics and clothes depicting the life story of this snaking construction, and a temple dedicated to Meng Jiangnu, one of China's devoted heroines

Admission: Shanhaiguan: 40 yuan; Laolongtou: 50 yuan; Tel: +86-335-5051957 Getting There: By Bus: One can take bus No. 25 or 33 from Sidaoqiao Bus Station, or take No. 13, 23, 24 or 26 buses from railway station, Qinhuangdao City. Hours Open: 8:10am to 4:00pm

Shanhaiguan

Shanhaiguan (15 kilometers from Qinhuangdao) is a sleepy port town situated on the northern coast of the Bohai Gulf, in the shadows of Shanhai Pass of the Great Wall of China. The town gets its name from the nearby Yanshan Mountains and the Bohai Sea.

Shanhaiguan is the town built at Shanhai Pass. It contains the ruins of old an fort and towers set among modern buildings, The tallest structure is a gatehouse comprised of an arch topped by a two-story tower. Dong Daije is a fortress with 30 meter thick walls. It is now a museum with weapons. The Great Wall Museum is housed in a modern copy of a Qing building. None of the captions are in English. The Great Wall at Shanhai also features giant maze decked out with flags.

Shanhaiguan is a small, sleepy town and port of the northern section of the Bohai Gulf. Two nearby places of interest are Laolongtou (Old Dragon's He) and Temple of Mengjiangnu This temple is located in the Shanhai Pass District of Qinhuangdao. Legend says that in the time of Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-207 B.C.), Meng Jaingnv's husband was conscripted to help build the Great Wall. Missing her husband very much, Meng jiangnu set out on the long journey to see him. When she arrived at the foot of the wall, she learned that her husband had been worked to death and buried beneath it, and she wept so many tears that a huge section of the Great Wall crumbled away. The sorrowful woman then drowned herself in the sea, and a temple was erected to commemorate her. A clay sculpture of Meng Jaingnnu stands in front of the temple hall. Dressed in a black gown, she gazes out at the sea, her expression revealing her grief and indignation Admission: fee: 30 yuan; Hours Open: 08:10 to 4:00pm Tel: 86-335-5152996

Laolongtou (Old Dragon's He)

Laolongtou (four kilometers south of Shanhai Pass) is a tourist attraction that is located at the eastern end of the Great Wall. Its name means "Old Dragon Head." Jutting out into the Bohai Sea is the Ninghai Stone City (1381) which is a half-kilometer in diameter. Destroyed during the many wars which racked the region, it was restored in 1985 as part of a campaign to restore the Great Wall. Situated on top of the old city wall is the city's most beautiful building, Chenghai Tower.

The Dragon's Head section that rises from the sea is almost entirely a reconstruction made in the 1980s. The original was destroyed by a European expeditionary force in 1900. The whole area is a bit touristy. There are amusement park rides and aggressive hawkers. The beaches are dirty and crowded.

Laolongtou stretches 23 meters into the sea, it is said, like a dragon drinking water, hence its name, and zigzags over the rolling mountains like a the back of a dragon. This part of the Great Wall was built starting in the 7th year of Wanli reign in the Ming Dynasty (1579) and was repaired in the 7th year of Kangxi reign in the Qing Dynasty (1668). Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) stop here for a visit on their way to Fengtian (Present-day Shenyang) to worship their ancestors.

Laolongtou comprises the Estuary Stone City, Jinglu Watchtower, Wangshou Watchtower, Nanhaikou Pass, Chenghai Tower, Ninghai City and Binhai City. The Estuary Stone City is located in the estuary and was built by Qijiguang, a famous Ming general. It was built to stop invaders from Nuchen and Mongolia. The base of the Stone City was placed on natural reefs and constructed with huge rocks, which were secured with cast iron chains. The battlements on walls the extends into the sea.

Connecting with the Stone City in the north, Jinglu Watchtower, was built with granite bars and has a commanding height to block the sea. The straight-cut plane of the watchtower is an equilateral trapezium with a bottoms length of 11.7 meters and a top of 10.7 meters. Wangshou Watchtower and Jinglu Watchtower echo each other at a distance to form defense fortifications that outflank the Old Dragon's Head Bay. As a close defense work, the protruding tower is 25 meters-wide and 34 meters long, with parapet walls inside and a basement beneath that is over 20-meter-long .

Nanhaikou Pass is the only pass of the Ming Great wall established on the seashore. With a height of 5.4 meters, this pass was supposed to be the commanding center of the Laolongtou Great Wall defense system. Chenghai Tower (20 meters away from Nanhaikou pass) , was built after Nanhaikou Pass was deserted. It functioned as a defensive arrow tower and retired after the Qing Dynasty . Ninghai City, where Chenghai Tower is located, is about 6.6-meter-high and has a 500-meter circumference. There are two gates, one in the west and another in the north. The city wall was built with bricks on a stone basement and was rammed with loess inside the walls. The city has now been rebuilt and is open to tourists Admission: fee: 50 yuan; Bus route: 25, 34

Image Sources: 1) Great Wall, Nolls China website; 2) NASA; 3) Great Wall tower, Nolls China website http://www.paulnoll.com/China/index.html ; 4) Early Great Wall, Ohio State University; 5) Wall attack, University of Washington; 6) Wall-mounting ladder, University of Washington; 7) Great Wall map, Dr. Robert Perrins; 8) Grand Canal. Beifan.com

Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), UNESCO, Rough Guide for Beijing, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020


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