The Other Great Wall

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great wall
great wall
Great Wall at Badaling 八达岭长城

At Badaling, there is a gate, which is called the Key to the North Gate with an elevation of 600 metres (the north gate of an old fort at the Badaling Section of the Great Wall, northwest of Beijing). It has been known in history as hotly contested strategic point.

The Badaling (Eight Prominent Peaks) section is the best-preserved part of the Wall. Several renovations have taken place since 1949. The Great Wall runs 629 kilometres in the Beijing area (distributed in six dis-tricts and counties such as Mentougou, Yanqing, Changping, Huairu, Miyun, Pinggu). More than 100 kilometers are well preserved and four other sections at Badaling, Juyongguan, Mutianyu, and Simatai totalling more than 30 kilometers of the Wall in Beijing area have already been renovated and opened to the public.

The most comfortable way to get to the top of the Great Wall is obviously to take a cable car.

Badaling is one of passes along the Great Wall.It is also one of the Jundu Mountain peaks in the southern part of Yanqing County, northwest of Beijing with an elevation of 1.015 metres.

Remnant Badaling Great Wall or  Shixiaguan Great Wall 八达岭残长城

A section of the Great Wall that has remained unchanged since it was built the Ming Dynasty was opened to the public on June 18, 2000. The site, called Shixiaguan Pass or the Remnant Badaling Great Wall, is only 5 kilometres from the existing Badaling section of the Great Wall. As the west gate of the defense system of the Badaling Great Wall, it has not been renovated or decorated since it was built. The pass was constructed among lofty and precipitous peaks and the original connecting walls and standing towers still reveal its magnificent grandeur although it is now incomplete and weather-beaten. There are two other areas of archaeological value at the foot of Shixiaguan Pass. One is the ancient quarry used in the construction of the Great Wall, where the split rocks and cutting stones are still quite evident. The other is a part of an original brick kiln, from which all the wall bricks were made by ordinary people hundreds of years ago. With the incomplete beauty of the ancient culture, the Remnant Badaling Great Wall is characterized by its remnant style.

Nicknamed the “Wild Wall,” the remnants not far from the tourist-swarmed Badaling section of the Great Wall make up the location where Li Zicheng (1606-45), leader of the peasant uprising, led his peasant rebel army in at-tacking and breaking through in 1644 and eventually ending the Ming dynasty (1368-1644).

Great Wall at Mutianyu 慕田峪长城

Chinese and overseas tourists are very familiar with the Badaling section of the great Wall, but not the Mutianyu segment of the wall in Huairou District 79 kilometers away from Beijing proper. The Mutianyu Valley in Huairou District on the outskirts of the capital city was such a strategic point that it was contested again and again through china’s history.

The first wall in this area was built some 1,400 years ago. Construction of the present wall began in the early years of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and was not completed until the 15th century. The mountains around the valley are heavily forested and vegetation rate reaches more than 80 per cent; there are many natural springs and thick, beautiful foliage. In the past, these were important military considerations; today, they make this section of the wall a very pleasant place to visit. Historical records show that Qi Jiguang (1528-87), a famous Ming general who won many battles in southeast China, designed the watchtowers at Mutianyu. A number of his soldiers were from South China. And perhaps they influenced the architectural style of the brick watchtowers–the shape of the lookout openings at the tops of the towers greatly resembles a fence design popular in that region.

The renovation on the 2,250 meter-long Mutianyu Great Wall began in December 1983 and was opened to the public in April 1986. Along this wall there are 17 watchtowers at an elevation of 535 meters, and cable car can go up right to the top of the Wall. The Great Wall at Mutianyu is 8 meters high, 6 meters at the bottom and 4 meters wide at the top.

In 1988, Mr. Albrecht Woeste, Chairman of the Henkel Shareholders’ Committee of Germany donated 300,000 deutsche mark (US$187,500) and chemical products worth 200,000 marks (US$125,000) to help Beijing to restore the 747 meter Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. It took 5 years and was completed on June 14, 1993. Beijing municipal government gave the Germans an ancient brick of the Great Wall and built a stone-tablet at Mutianyu to commemorate their assistance.

Simatai Great Wall 司马台长城

The Simatai Great Wall, 110 kilometres northeast of Beijing, has 135 watchtowers (or guard towers). The 19 kilometre wall is dangerous to climb but splendid to view as it meanders up and down the mountain ridges that seem to have been sliced on both sides by a huge axe. The Wangjinglou Watchtower on a steep cliff 986 metres above sea level is the summit of the Simatai Great Wall and also the most dangerous spot to reach, because the visitor must walk over some unrepaired paths, including the “scaling ladder” and “overline bridge” before reaching it. The “scaling ladder” is a slope at an angle of 60 to 70 degrees: the visitor must climb on all fours and be extremely careful. The “overline bridge” is a path about 100 metres long and less than one metre wide which crosses abysses about 500 metres deep. With nothing to hold on to, the slightest wind will make the visitor tremble with fear. Because of the dangers involved in reaching Wangjinglou ( Looking-Toward Beijing Tower), only a few people have ever set foot on the tower in modern times.

Gubeikou Great Wall 古北口长城

With a total length of 21 kilometres, the Gubeikou Great Wall section is located northeast of Beijing, 128 kilometres from the city centre. The section of the wall was first built in 1368 and expanded in 1567 by a famous general named Qi Jiguang under the Ming. It still retains its past magnificence, although it was broken in parts by Japanese shelling during the War of Resistance between 1937 and 1945.

This section meanders through mountains 400 to 900 metres high. Unlike other sections, it varies in width, with the widest part able to accommodate five horses walking abreast and the narrowest spot allowing only a single person to pass.

A road leading to the section of the wall has been built for tourists. Many cultural relics have been discovered in the preliminary digging, including arrows, bamboo guns, stone mills and knives. They are exhibited as part of the tourist attraction.

The Great Wall Restoration Committee, jointly sponsored by Beijing’s five newspapers and the Badaling Administration Office, was established in Beijing and first launched the drive on July 5, 1984. By September of 1986, Chinese and overseas donors have contributed nearly 10 million yuan (US$2.7 million) to rebuild the Great Wall. The contributions have come from thousands of people from china’s 30 provinces, regions and municipalities and from 26 foreign countries, in response to an open appeal to “Love China and Rebuild the Great Wall.” In addition, many donors have contributed art works such as calligraphy, paintings and sculptures to the drive. As promised by the sponsors in their open appeal, prominent donors have had their names inscribed on plaques which was erected at the Badaling and Mutianyu Great Wall sites. Out of the contributions one million yuan (US$270,000) was used to build a Great Wall Museum at Badaling. Construction of monuments to honour individuals and organizations whose donations exceed 500 and 1,000 yuan respectively is already underway. A major monument, with an inscription by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in Chinese meaning “Love Our Motherland and Rebuild the Great Wall” has been erected near the entrance to the Great Wall at Badaling. A monument honouring the Pakistan Government and other foreign contributions has been erected at Wangjingshi ( Looking-Toward Beijing Rock) at Badaling.

The Gubeikou town in Miyun County which has a history of more than two thousand years would be the inportant passage way in the northeast of Beijing. It’s together with Mount Song and Juyong Pass were regarded as three iron locks for protecting Beijing.

Song-Dynasty Great Wall 宋代长城

Chinese archaeologists have confirmed after a recent field examination in late 1999 that a 20 kilometre long section of the Great Wall in North China’s Shanxi Province was built in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). This stone made section of the Great Wall is located in Kelan County in northwestern Shanxi. Sources from local archaeological departments said that about 20 kilometers of the portion of the Great Wall remain intact, though there are longer ruined portions. The discovery disperses experts’ doubts that no part of the Great Wall was constructed during the Song Dynasty.

Southern Great Wall Discovered 南方长城被发现

Chinese architect experts have discovered the ruins of the southern China portion of the Great Wall in Fenghuang County, Central china’s Hunan Province. According to historical records, the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) built a 190 kilometre long sidewall between Tongren County of Guizhou Province and Baojing County of Hunan Province in 1615 to reinforce its control of the area. Local experts said that the ruins of the sidewalls and defensive towers were built in 1797 during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Brick at Jiayu Pass 嘉峪关之砖

Jiayu Pass is located at the western end of the Great Wall in Gansu Province and was a strategic point on the well-travelled ancient Silk Road.

A single grey brick is fixed on the back wall of the western gate tower in the pass. It is said to be a souvenir left from a bet between a craftsman and a supervisor when the Great Wall was being built. A contractor named Yi Kaishan was so good at working out plans he could accurately calculate the number of men and materials needed without any waste.

The supervisor, who bore him a personal grudge, didn’t believe him and challenged him with a bet. “I’ll allow you just one brick more than you say you need,” he said. “If there is one left over, I’ll put it on the tower myself to leave a good name for you. If you need more, you’ ll be punished.”

Yi agreed. When the construction was finished, just as he predicted only one brick remained. This can be seen on the gate tower at Jiayu Pass today.

Bird Spirit’s Call 燕子之声

In the city of Xiluo near Jiayu Pass, the base of the wall is wider than the top for strength and solidity. Strangely, when the high quality bricks of a corner are struck with a stone, a clear and melodious sound like the song of a swallow can be heard. People say that the wall was so heavily guarded that even a swallow could not get through. One evening years ago, a swallow trying to return to its nest was killed when it flew into the wall. Today, the sound is said to be the plaintive voice of the bird’s spirit.

Length of the Great Wall 长城的长度

There are various measurements of the length of the Great Wall because in China’s history, more than twenty dynasties and states of dukes or princes built their own walls at different places. Of these, according to historical documents, three exceeded 10,000 li (5,000 kilometers ).  One was built during the reign of Emperor Qin Shihuang, starting from Lintao at the west end to Liaodong at the east end. The second one was built in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) from today’s Xinjiang to Liaodong, consisting of inner and outer walls with beacon towers and bulwark, measuring over 20,000 li (10,000 kilometers) in total. The third, built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), was from Jiayu Pass in Gansu at the west end to the Yalu River at the east end. If added together the total length of the walls built by various dynasties would amount to 100,000 li (50000 kilometers) or more. The ruins of these walls are scattered over sixteen provinces, cities and autonomous regions. In Inner Mongolia alone, the ruin of the Great Wall extends to 30,000 li (15,000 kilometers).

Most of the walls built in the early historical periods have been damaged or in a state of dilapidation. Now only the one built in the Ming Dynasty is comparatively well preserved. So, the Great Wall we mention today is the Ming dynasty Great Wall, which is in total 12,600 li (6, 300 kilometers) However, this figure is based only on historical records, and, as a matter of fact, in some places double or triple walls were built. With its meandering and loops the actual extent of the structure might be even longer.