Great Wall of China Pictures
Walking the Great Wall of China
The Great Wall is a staggering feat of engineering, a 21, 000 km/13, 170 mile long defensive system displaying the skill, organisation and determination of the Chinese people to maintain their national integrity at whatever the cost.
The wall stretches in layers across this huge country, made mainly from brick and stone, though early efforts of earth mixed with straw and wood are still visible in outer areas.
The first walls were constructed in northern China around eighth century BC but the first big effort occurred during the Qin dynasty (221-206 BC) when the Emperor Qin Shi Huang decided to unify China and the Great Wall was the key element, with its regularly spaced beacon towers from which flag and smoke signals were transmitted, enabling speedy control measures to be put into play.
The second big build came more than 1, 000 years later in the 14th/15th centuries when the Ming Dynasty was having trouble controlling speedy, flexible attacks and feints from the horseback warriors of Manchuria and Mongolia. The vast 23ft-high, 23ft-thick wall was the result.
The Great Wall at Badaling. Just say no. Photo by Jsporysz.
Badaling, 60kms (37 miles) north west of Beijing, has been the number one access point to the Great Wall since a major facelift 66 years ago.
If you’re just passing through Beijing then easy access via Line S2 of Beijing’s rail network from Beijing North terminal to Badaling (90 minutes) or fast taxi/bus on the expressway makes a visit brisk and convenient, but unless you arrive very early or late your enjoyment of this world wonder will be tempered with irritation at the number of your fellow travelers.
Badaling is, however, well fitted with facilities for wheelchair users such as with ramps, lifts and toilets.
Badaling is unfortunately a destination for zillions of Chinese tourists too, so if you have more time and prefer a spectacular and slightly less peopled view of the wall head for Mutianyu (73 kms northeast of Beijing), take the cable car halfway up and start walking.
The vicinity of the wall at Badaling also suffers an overdose of junk commercialism, with restaurants, souvenir shops and hawkers chasing your business but offers a cable car, a chair lift, a toboggan ride and hotels for those who wish to extend their pleasure.