The Great Wall, China 2011


During August of 2011, I had the opportunity to trek and explore, “The Great Wall of China north of Beijing. The Great Wall of China is the largest man-made project in the world and is a series of ancient fortifications built across northern China. It is a renowned as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987 and one of the Seven Wonders of the Medieval World. Early in the 7th century BC, several ancient states built their own boundary walls, which were later connected by Qin Shi Huang (259 – 210BC), the “First Emperor of China”. In the following 2,000 years, many dynasties continued to consolidate and extend the Great Wall, for not only defense, but also border trade management, imposing tariffs, and immigration control. The best-preserved sections were mainly built during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), and are locations that I trekked called the Mutianyu, Jiankou and Jinshanling sections.

The Great China Wall map and their sections.

I started at the Jinshanling Section. The Great Wall at Jinshanling has complete defensive system including barrier walls, battlement walls, watchtowers, gun emplacements, shooting holes, horse blocking walls, and branch cities.

Map of the Jinshanling Section of “The Great Wall”. Picture taken from an interpretive sign.

The Jinshanling Section is located about 130 kilometers,  northeast of Beijing downtown.

Looking out of portal on the Jinshanling Section of the Great Wall in China.

Jinshanling Great Wall is situated on the Big and Small Jinshanling Mountains, hence its name.

The Jinshanling Great Wall in China 2011

The Jinshanling Great Wall zigzaged from Longyu Pass in the west, and ended at the Wangjing Tower in the east, with a total length of 10.5 kilometers, with a height of 5 – 8 meters, and an altitude of 700 meters above sea level.

Trekking the Jinshanling Great Wall 2011 in China

Jinshanling Great Wall has 67 watchtowers, 3 beacon towers, and 5 passes. They were densely distributed, at intervals of 50 -100 meters apart.

Views of the towers at the Jinshanling Great Wall.

The Jinshanling Great Wall watchtowers differ in construction materials, the number of tiers, and the patterns of roofs. Some of them are made of bricks and wood, while others are made of bricks and stone. Some have one story, while others have two or three stories. The roofs of the watchtowers vary, from domes, flat, square, and octagonal.

The variety of towers found on the Jinshanling Great Wall in China

The General Tower (Storehouse Tower) is the essence of the defensive system, known as the “Most Representative Enemy Tower”. It is 10 m long, and 11 m wide. There is a stone staircase leading to the top of the tower and on that upper story is a sleeping den. A storehouse is found on the lower story.

One of the more dangerous sections of the Jinshanling Great Wall

The General Tower was built in 1569 and restored in 1985. It got this ‘name’ since General Qi Jiquang commanded to build it personally. To the north of the tower, the layout of beacon towers, buttressed walls, horse blocking walls, wing walls and the barrier walls on both sides of east and west in a hierarchical strategy pattern from far to near forms an impregnable and distinctive defense system.

A hard climb on the Jinshanling Great Wall in 2011

Beacon towers were used to early discover and delivery of military information.

Beacon Tower on the Jinshanling Great Wall in China

Buttressed walls are used to guard the general building and defend the enemies’ attack to Brick Stack Pass and Shalingzhai.

I’m posing at the Jinshanling Great Wall in China

Horse blocking walls were used to prevent the enemies’ horses from getting close to the Great Wall.

Posing on the General Tower of the Jinshanling Great Wall. Notice the T-Crossroads ahead.

Wing walls were used to defend the enemies’ direct attack to the general building.

Walking along a barrier wall at the Jinshanling Great Wall

Barrier walls are used to defend the further attack to the general building of the enemies who have already took the riding track of the Great Wall.

Interpretive sign at the Mutianyu Great Wall

A couple of days later, I continued to trek the Mituanyu Great Wall. The Mutianyu Great Wall is one of the best-preserved and best-known Great Wall sections but less people. The Mutianyu Great Wall is found west of the Jinshanling Great Wall. So I tried to close the gape between them by trekking east towards the Jiankou Great “Wild” Wall.

Trekking the Mitianyu Great Wall in 2011.

The Mutianyu Great Wall was first built in Northern Qi Dynasty (550-557). In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Tan Lun and Qi Jiguang, two famous patriotic generals, rebuilt the Mutianyu Section, in order to strengthen its defensive potential when they guarded the strategic pass. It served as the northern protective screen, guarding the capital and imperial mausoleums for generations.

Walking east along the Mitianyu Great Wall, towards the Jiankou Wild Wall.

Mutianyu Great Wall is mainly made of slabs of granite. It measures 7 m – 8 m in height, and 4 m – 5 m in width. It only runs 5.4 km long, until it turns into the Jiankou Wild wall.

Getting close to the end of the Mitianyu Great Wall Section.

On the Mutianyu Great Wall, are 23 watchtowers distributed at close intervals. They are located not only in the main wall but also at the distinctive “branch city”. Branch cities are built on the hill ridge against the inner or outer side of the wall.

Trekking the Jiankou Wild Wall in China 2011.

The Jiankou Great Wall is one of the most dangerous and wild Great Wall sections. It is also the most beautiful section due to its precipitous mountains, unique construction style, and attractive scenery.

The Jiankou Great Wild Wall in China

Jiankou” means “arrow nock”, because the shape of the mountain is like an arrow, with the collapsed ridge opening as its arrow nock.

The extremely difficult trek through the jungle of the Jiankou Wild Wall

The Jiankou Great Wall was built from the local material of dolomite. These are large pieces of white rock, making it striking to the eye at a distance. The Jiankou Wild Wall zigzags 20 km from the Ox Horn Edge Wall to the Nine-Eye Tower via the Beijing Knot, joining Mitianyu in the east and Jinshanling in the west.

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