Archives For Walls

For more on the Great Wall renovation project, we have our reporter Ai Yang in the studio. Good evening to you Ai Yang.

Q1. The Hefangkou Great Wall certainly looks very different, compared to tourist spots like Badaling, and Mutianyu. How are things progressing and when is the renovation expected to be completed?

A. You’re right James. This section of the Great Wall in Huairou district is in dire need of repair. From a distance, when you look at the entire 3,500 meter stretch of the section, it looks magnificent. But when you arrive at the foot of the wall, you get a better idea of its true condition. At some parts of the Hefangkou section, the walls have collapsed, and the rocks are pretty loose. This is due to human, as well as natural activities. The expert I talked to told me that, during the 60s and 70s, when China was going through a rough period and resources were very scarce, many villagers living nearby climbed onto the hills, and took away some of the loosened bricks. They used them as building material for their own homes. But from now on the Hefangkou Great Wall will be a lot better taken care of. The renovation project is largest to have ever been undertaken in Beijing. It covers a stretch of wall over 3 thousand meters in length, as well as 25 watchtowers. The budget is more than 40 million yuan, and the project is expected to be completed by the end of next year. James.

Q2. Is this going to be about cosmetic alterations to the wall’s exterior, or are parts of the wall going to be entirely rebuilt?

This is also a concern of many historians and scholars. The purpose of this project is to retain the Hefangkou Great Wall’s original appearance so far as possible. The engineers told me they’ll be strengthening the main body of the structure. As for whether its going to be entirely rebuilt, I was told that the focus was going to be chiefly on the external appearance of the wall. As the project develops, and the underlying structure of the old wall becomes clearer, they’ll adjust their plans to accommodate it. But it’s unlikely that many of the newly built elements will be very visible. And just before I finish, I’d also like to add, that over the years, there’s been a lot of debate about these kinds of renovation projects. For example, some people argue that the repair work is usually very costly, and without careful management, worker’s safety can be at risk too. Despite these concerns, this is a very high profile project and many are eager to see this historical site restored. I guess we’ll just have to see how it looks in 12 months time.

(Source: English CNTV Auguest 27, 2011)

Dawn at Jinshanling

john  —  October 16, 2012

WildChina Tour Leader Christian discusses a recent survey trip to the Jinshanling (Golden Mountain) section of the Great Wall:

To book this tour please click here.

To book this tour please click above.

It’s not every day you get a chance to come to the Great Wall. When my colleagues and I undertook a recent trip to Jinshanling that involved spending the night in tents next to the ancient edifice, we decided to make the most of our time and wake up early to watch the sun rise from the battlements.

At 4:00AM, our alarms went off and in hushed whispers we gathered our jackets, our water bottles, and our cameras. The clouds from the rain the day before had cleared and the moon shone brightly lighting our path to the base of the Great Wall. The air was cool and crisp, and the dew on the grass sparkled with the moonlight. Periodically a joke would surface about the early hour but for the most part we walked in silence enjoying the peaceful quiet that seems so rare at any other time of day.

When we reached the base of the wall, we began our slow steady climb breathing lightly as we made our way to the top of the highest available tower. As we climbed it was impossible not think back to what it was like hundreds of years ago for a sentry posted here to be silent and watchful in the dark. Atop our tower at last, the wind whipped through the crenelations quickly cooling us from the brief ascent. Like archers we lined our cameras along the arrow loops hoping for the perfect shot at the sun that had already begun to brighten the morning sky into a warm blue gray.

On this particular day the clouds were hanging low on the horizon blurring what we had hoped would be a perfect glowing orb. Nonetheless the view was incredible. As the sun rose on these stones as it has for thousands of years past, its rays colored the wall a soft orange hue that was striking. It was an early morning to be sure, but the chance to witness the wall’s stones gilded in sunlight was an experience I will remember forever.

(Blog posted by wildchina  on September 4, 2012. You can see the original article by following this link to

I decided once again to visit the Great Wall last May during the visit of my sister and her boyfriend in Beijing. The new spot that we selected is called Huang Hua Chang, the Yellow Flower City.

As I did during my first trip, we chose a wild part of the Wall which is not officially open to tourists. This site, located 60 km North of Beijing is really nice with a big water reservoir in the bottom of the valley.

The architecture of this section is reflecting the Ming Emperors’ reigns. Chinese government started to renovate it couple of years ago but it was canceled after few months of working. The Wall is in a good shape; it allows us to walk on it without big risks.

Our driver gave us some recommendations on the right way to go for enjoying our trip. We walked from the water reservoir to the Wall via a short trail. A farmer asked us a right of way through his field that we paid without argument (3 yuans per person). We met our first difficulty at the foot of the Wall. The only way to go up was a rickety ladder which ends through a window of the Tower…

We had our lunch break directly on the Wall with an incredible point of view on the other valley and the water reservoir. It was the right place for a French picnic: bread, cheese, tomatoes, butter, ham… A real pleasure to eat a “Jambon-beurre” on the Great Wall of China. :)

After a good time eating and sunbathing, we started our ascent to the Wall and went from guard tower to guard tower. The Wall inclination is sometimes really important. We though couple of times about the soldiers with complete armor that walked on this Wall long time ago to defend China from invaders.

We started to be tired after few hours going up and down on the wall. Then, we met the most difficult ascent to the highest point of this section. The Wall is really abrupt there and the stairs are in bad conditions. We quickly walked on all fours to assure our ascent. This is in this kind of place that you can really understand what is vertigo. :)

We went down through a short path in the middle of the vegetation to avoid any danger.

Funny story about our descent (as it always happens in China, only in China): a farmer asked us to pay 20 yuans per person to open his gate. He was strong, a bit weird and told us to go up in the mountain if we want to find another way. We agreed to pay to be able to go back to our minivan lower in the valley.


(Blog posted by Julian. You can see the original article by following this link to Julian, A French Man in Asia)

↑ Photo taken on Aug 13, 2012 shows a section of the “Great Wall Under Water”, which emergesout of the Panjiakou Reservoir in Kuancheng Manchu autonomous county, north China’s Hebeiprovince. The Xifengkou and Panjiakou Great Wall built in ancient China’s Ming Dynasty(1368-1644) lied in the water following the building of the Panjiakou Reservoir in 1975. Butsharp decline of the reservoir’s water level because of drought brought it above the water thisyear. Recently, parts of the Great Wall, which emerged out of the water, were submerged againdue to continuous heavy rain.

↑ In 1975,the government built the Panjiakou Reservoir in Kuancheng county, therefore water inundated a sectionof the Great Wall there which is 500 years old. Because of drought and an increase in the use of water,the water level at the Panjiakou Reservoir fell more than 10 meters and part of the “Underwater GreatWall” emerged. However since July, the heavy rain has again raised the water level to the highest it hasbeen in ten years and the Great Wall again is submerged. Uniquely, it is the only place where the GreatWall dips underwater.

[Photo/Xinhua][From: Chinadaily]

In the 1520s, this village was an important military base. The village was encircled by stone walls, some leading up the steep hills of the valley, and some of the arched entries and exits still remain. The thickness of the remaining walls give some indication of the level of fortification, and the importance of securing this pass, a sort-of shortcut around the heavily fortified Badaling mountain pass.

As well as the old city walls, the village has several other sights to see: an old shrine which is alleged to cause difficulties for cameras; a restored-but-closed temple with a large bell inside, and a giant old tree just outside the temple entrance.

For more photos please see its website:

July is one of the hotter month in Beijing with really high temperatures. We wanted to avoid this climate during one weekend and go to the seaside for a quick swim.

Our inital plan was to go to Qingdao city which is really well known due to the Tsintao brewery but we had to change our destination after experiencing some troubles with the local railway company – let’s go to Shanhaiguan in Heibei province for 2 days!

First problem: we can’t buy our returning tickets in Beijing. You need to be on the departure station to be able to buy tickets from this station. As soon as we arrived in Shanhaiguan, we went to the ticket office to be sure that we can have tickets for Sunday night. We wait in a long queue during more than 30 minutes to learn as the end that all seat tickets have been sold. We got only stand-up tickets – like in the subway during 2h30… :(

Second problem: there is only one hotel which accept foreigners in this city. They used to have expensive prices for low quality rooms (what’s a good business). We bargained during 40min to find a deal at 300 RMB / night for a 3 beds room. As we were 4, we shared our beds for this night :(

First day – Shanhaiguan discovery

As the sky was grey, we decided to go to the beack on Sunday and go for a tourist discovery on Saturday. We went to Laolongtou, most famous place in Shanhaiguan (Ticket: 50 RMB) where the Great Wall met the Sea. The legend says that the Great Wall continued into the sea for more than 25m. We were not able to confirm as everything has been rebuilt couple of years ago.

I didn’t recommend the Great Wall museum in front of Laolongtou. It was boring and each piece were in laminated wood. A tourist trap for 30 RMB…

Our night was divided into two main activities: we had a dinner first in the streets of Shanhaiguan then we moved to the neighbor city called Qinghuangdao to discover night life. We were a bit disappointed as we only found a crossroads with 3 open bars. We selected the only one with music band and enjoyed our night.

Second day – enjoying the sea and visit to an amusement park

As we failed to find a cab to go to the beach, we had the time to visit some hutongs in our hotel area. After 1 hour walk, we got one and asked him to drive us to a big aquatic park that we discovered on an ad the day before. The driver seemed a bit confused on our choice and we finally understood that this place was more than 70km away from Shanhaiguan. New plan, we decided to go to the local Amusement Park. :)

It was a good choice as our day was really great and sunny with some aquatics games (water slides, waterfall, swimming-pools…), a nice afternoon on the beach and some amusement attractions (roller-coaster and high sensation ride). No picture are available as we stayed all day in swimsuits… :)

Our way back to Beijing was at scheduled pretty hard without seat tickets. We stayed in the club-car with lot of other people. Everybody seated/lay on their luggage or on the floor. Fortunately, this week-end was really relaxing and revitalizing before a new week of work in this crazy city called Beijing…

(Blog posted by Julian. You can see the original article by following this link to Julian, A French Man in Asia)


To book this tour please click here.

To book this tour please click here.

We went in early August, but it’s not so hot in this village called Xizhazi (西柵子村). Wear a pair of long pants (because of the shrubs) and good pair of walking/hiking shoes (because of loose stones every where) when hiking up to the Great Wall. Do not climb the Great Wall when it rains!

There’re several entrances to the hike, and it only takes a few minutes to reach from the village. You’ll know you’re at the start of the trail when you see a giant sign (in Chinese & English) saying one should not climb the Great Wall, etc. The total time to & from the Great Wall is about 2 hours. Plan more time if you actually want to be on the Great Wall.

This village is in Huairou district located at the foot of Jiankou Great. There was an entrance cost to the village for 20 Yuan per person. We stayed at HF Hostel  (we strongly recommend it). It was only 100 Yuan per night for the two of us. (Price includes 3 meals; need to ask for drinking water if you don’t mind drinking their water. They raise their own chicken for eggs and grow their own vegetables & corn. The owner Mr. Zhao makes an excellent grill trout – so fresh! If you clean out your plates, they’ll think they don’t feed you enough.) Tourists go there all year round. Weekdays have much less tourists. Remember to bring toilet paper & be polite!

We also took a walk in a lavender farm which is located on the west side of village.

Xizhazi Village 西栅子村

john  —  April 30, 2012

To book this tour please click here.

To book this tour please click here.

Situated at the foot of Jiankou Great Wall, Xizhazi Village is the base of Jiankou Great Wall where visitors can stop for a rest. If you do a day trip to Jiankou, it’s not necessary to stay overnight. If you want to experience the sunrise and sunset, this village is the best location.

Most the local farmers have newly-built guesthouses, and they are basic and simple. Simple but fabulous home-made local Chinese food is available at these guesthouses. Jiankou is becoming a popular destination among local Chinese, so you have to reserve an accommodation if you go there at weekend, otherwise just go straight. The local farmers can not speak any English and it’s recommended to employ an English-speaking guide in Beijing.

Standard twin room with private facility will cost RMB 150-200. Multi-shared rooms (3-4 people) will cost RMB 180 each room and the local heated brick bed (Kang) will cost RMB 20 as well. A pulic toilet and shower is available for multi-shared accommodation.


Most of the farmhouses in the village receive guests. They also offer authentic “peasant dishes” including all sorts of wild vegetables, free range eggs, pan-fried green onion cakes, cornmeal dumpling with vegetable stuffing, millet gruel and all sorts of barbecue.

How to get there

 By bus:

Take bus No.916 at Dongzhimen bus hub (subway line 2 is available) in Beijing and get off at Yingbinlu Station(迎宾路)) in Huairou, then transfer bus 862 and get off at Yujiayuan (于家园). The bus runs only twice a day between Huairou and Xizhazi. The leaving time is: from Yujiayuan to xizhazi: 11:30am, 4:30pm; from xizhazi to yujiayuan: 6:30am, 1:15pm. The one way duration is around 70 mins.


  By car:

Take Jingcheng (Beijing – Chengde) Expressway, pass Yanxi Roundabout, Shentangyu Village, turn left at Badaohe Bridge and drive along until you reach Xizhazi Village.

Jiankou Zhengbeilou Tower

john  —  April 24, 2012
To book this tour please click here.

To book this tour please click here.

After checking out the Beijing Knot on the previous day, today’s mission was to hike from the village, to the Zhengbeilou tower then to the Mutianyu (restored) section of the Great Wall.  After another hour long hike up the mountain, we could see the impressive Jiankou section of the wall.

From the Zhengbeilou tower the view was more impressive.

In the picture above, you can see the wall leading up to the tower from the west is nearly gone replaced by a steep slope.  The tower itself is still in decent shape and thus you can climb inside and enjoy the view from the roof.

The great wall continues east and that is the path we take.

The Wall as viewed from inside one of the Watchtowers.

Continue Reading…

Shanhaiguan Pass Great Wall

john  —  April 9, 2012

Shanhaiguan Pass Great Wall

This Ming-dynasty-built Great Wall is lying in Qinghuangdao City, Hebei Province. It is the eastern extremity of the wall. In fact, this section is a small city connected to the Great Wall and known as the “No. 1 Pass under Heaven”. Shanghaiguan Great Wall is called the “Museum of the Construction of the Great Wall”, because of its many ancient buildings including the grand city gates, towers, temples, and moat.

Laolongtou Great Wall

About 4km to the south of the Shanghaiguan Pass Great Wall is the starting point of the wall –Laolongtou, where the Great Wall begins there and meets the sea. When climb on its Denghailou Tower, a giant dragon winds through the mountains and put its head into the wide sea to drink water can be enjoyed.

Surviving Jiankou

john  —  April 6, 2012

There are at least 5 major sections of the Great Wall near Beijing and each section of the wall is different in character and in the type of tourist it appeals to. For example you have Badaling which is easily accessible, immaculately restored and extremely crowded and then you have sections like Gubiekou that are hard to reach, largely in ruins and fairly isolated.

After visiting the more well known sections of the Great Wall such as Simatai, Gubeikou and Badaling, I was ready for some hard core wall hiking. I was ready for Jiankou.

Why jiankou

The Jiankou section of the Great Wall is extremely difficult and dangerous to climb in some sections, joins the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, has incredible scenery, is very hard to access and a must do for any serious Great Wall enthusiast. Basically walking the Jiankou section is an adventure that no other section of the Great Wall can provide.

Jiankou is a Ming Dynasty section of the Great Wall and built in 1368 along steep mountain ridges and tall cliffs. In these areas where the wall has been destroyed by natural degradation, the only way up or down the wall is over crumbling ruins with very steep or vertical surfaces.

The plan

The Jiankou section of the Great Wall stretches from the Nine Eye Tower (Jiu Yan Lou) in the north to Zheng Bei Lou in the south east and has around 22 towers. I heard that Jiankou does not take more than a few hours walk so my plan was to hike from the Nine Eye Tower past Zhengbeilou towards the Mutianyu section. If I could not reach the Mutianyu section by 4 or 5pm, I’d stop at that time, leave the wall and make my way back to Beijing.

This plan sounded nice in theory but did not work in practice.

Getting there

The starting point for hiking Jiankou is a small village called Xi zha zi 5 that is around 75-80 kilometers north of Beijing and hard to reach. To get to the village you first catch the subway to Dongzhimen station on line two then catch the 916 express bus at Dongzhimen Wai long distance bus station. The bust station is right next to exit B at Dongzhimen station and hard to miss.

The 916 express bus takes around 90 minutes ands terminates at a small city called Huairou where you get off at the last stop. From Huairou you catch a taxi to the village and the taxi ride takes just over one hour.

At Huairou you’ll be mobbed by black (unofficial) taxi drivers as soon as you step of the bus who will all want to take you to the Great Wall. They will probably offer to take you to the village for around 200rmb which is way too much. A fair price is around 100 to 120rmb so don’t pay more. I ended up paying 80rmb after half an hour of haggling and the taxi was a small old rust bucket with a tiny fuel efficient engine.

The drive from Huairou to the village is through the mountains and very enjoyable with gorgeous scenery. The taxi driver Mr Ma told me there was no way I’d make the hike from Nine Eye Tower to Mutianyu so we agreed that either he or one of his buddies would pick me up in the afternoon near the Zhengbeilou.

From the Village to the wall

The village is small and only has a population of around 300 people who are mostly farmers. Walking through the village is a great way to see a side of China that most tourist never experience. Once you pass through the village, there are a number of paths you can take and only one of the paths heads towards Nine Eye Tower.

I had to ask for directions three times to find right path. The locals are friendly so if you are not sure, ask for “jiu yan lou” or just point at the wall which is clearly visible I the distance look lost. Looking lost was not hard to do and worked for me.

Once you are on the path, the way to go is clear and you will have no problem reaching the wall. The path goes through very heavy scrub and reaches the wall north of Beijing Knot after 30 minutes of walking.

The wall itself

To book this tour please click here.

To book this tour please click here.

The wall was nothing like what I expected and these three words sum the wall up perfectly. Overgrown, dangerous and awesome.

I estimate that at least 80% of the wall was intact with the battlements and the road/path between the battlements in surprisingly good condition. The main areas where the battlements and the road were in ruins or had been destroyed was in the very steep sections south of the Beijing Knot.


Walking the intact sections of the wall would have been very easy if those sections were not overgrown. I’m not talking about a few weeds and the occasional shrub. I am talking about serious overgrowth with very thick shrubs, grass, weeds and small trees. Walking the wall in these parts was like walking through a jungle with the sky blocked by foliage and no sense of direction. The path through the jungle was very narrow an in some parts you had to squeeze through entangled shoots and branches.

I’ve seen the wall restored and in immaculate condition, in complete ruins and in various states of disrepair but I have never seen a relatively intact wall like the Jiankou section that was so overgrown and covered in vegetation. This part of the wall does not need restoration. It needs weeding. Badly.


I always thought that Jiankou’s reputation for being dangerous was exaggerated but I was very wrong. The northern section of Jiankou from the Nine Eye Tower to the Beijing Knot is safe and easy to walk. The section from Beijing knot to Zhengbeilou is extremely dangerous with three areas where the wall has been destroyed and you have to use hand and foot holds to climb up. Like rock climbing with out the safety rope. One of these sections is especially dangerous and so steep that the surface of the wall is basically vertical.

Being stupid and reckless, I climbed all the dangerous sections, even the vertical section. I was half way up vertical section and running out of hand and footholds when it finally occurred to me the dangerous the wall was in and how stupid I was to try and climb it. At this stage climbing back down was much more dangerous than continuing so I ignored the drop below, stopped thinking about how the bricks and rocks I was clinging to were laid over 600 years ago, resisted the urge to panic and kept climbing.

The drop from these steep sections can be over 6 meters and the bottom is rock and brick so if you fall, you are going to break something and will definitely not be walking away. Jiankou is an extremely isolated section of the wall and I only saw two other people that day. If you hurt yourself there, you may not get help for a long time and the nearest hospital is hours away. People have died climbing Jiankou so be aware of the danger and be careful.

Getting home

Walking and climbing Jiankou took much longer than expected so I could not even reach Zhengbeilou. In the end I ran out of time and had to leave the wall at Lian Kou at around 4:15pm. The walk from the wall down the mountain to the pick up point took around 45 minutes.

I called Mr Ma on the walk back to let him know I was on my way and he said one of his buddies would be there. Great. Reached the pick up point and there was no driver so I called Mr Ma again who said no one was coming to pick me up, hung up on me and refused to take any more calls. Wow. So what do you do when you are stuck in the middle of no where with the sun setting? Start walking, stick your thumb out and hope for a lift.

After around an hour of walking I managed to catch a lift with a very friendly family from Beijing who were great. They dropped me off at a bus stop on a some main road and I caught a bus an hour later to Huairou. By that time were no more buses to Beijing so I found a taxi and negotiated a lift to the nearest Beijing subway station for 80rmb. I eventually arrived back at the hostel at 11pm. An exciting end to an exciting day.

The future

Zhengbeilou is one of the most popular sections of the Great Wall for photography and with an altitude of 991 meters, the scenery and views are fantastic. My next Great Wall trip will be to walk from Zhengbeilou all the way to Mutianyu which will be a great walk.

(Blog posted by China Travel Go on December 19, 2011 by Brendon. You can see the original article by following this link to China Travel Go)

Jinshanling Great Wall

john  —  April 4, 2012

One of the more beautiful sections of the Great Wall of China is Jinshanling (Jīnshānlǐng, 金山岭.) Jinshanling spans 10.5 km through a mountainous Luanping County, 125 km north of Beijing. The wall itself consists of 67 towers and 2 beacon towers. While the first couple kilometers have been restored, as you approach Simatai to the east, you will find the majestic remnants of the wall that separated China from its enemies.

The Great Wall snakes for more than 6000 km through northern China along the southern edges of Inner Mongolia. While some parts of the wall date back to 220 BC, Jinshanling is a more recent addition built by the Ming Dynasty in 1570 AD.

Hiking the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall will allow you some of the best views and most amazing pictures. The wall meanders up and down through the mountains and can get rather steep during the hike. At the entrance, many guides will recommend going left toward the cable car however going right and entering the wall at Zhuan Duo Kou (砖垛口) will give you the chance to hike 9 more towers on a renovated part of the wall without the cable car crowd. From these towers, you will get great photos and be able to see the challenges that lay ahead.

The hike, itself, will consume 3-5 hours of your day and can be strenuous at times. As you near the highest peaks and towers, the wall becomes very steep and the walkway turns to loose rock. This part of the wall has not been renovated and as it looks amazing, you should be careful with your footing. The stairs leading to and from the towers tend to have narrow footholds and be spaced far apart. While the hike should not pose a problem for most people, if need be there are small paths off of the wall that lead you around the steep sections. These are the paths that the local vendors take to get to the Great Wall (to avoid buying a ticket).

The entrance ticket is 50RMB however this is rumored to be increasing to 80RMB in 2012. The entrance ticket does not include the cable car trip. Near the entrance there are public restrooms, small vendor stands selling over-priced trinkets and a restaurant. It is recommended to bring bottles of water and snacks with you. There will be vendors along the wall selling souvenirs, drinks and snacks however they are priced high.

To book this tour please click here.

To book this tour please click above.

Getting there: The drive to Jinshanling will take about 2.5 hours. Most people will get to the Great Wall early so that they have plenty of time to hike before the hottest part of the day. There are a couple ways to get to Jinshanling by bus.

The first, take a bus bound for Miyun County from Dongzhimen Long Distance Bus Station. When you arrive in Miyun, you can take the local tourist bus to Jinshanling.

You can also take a bus to Chengde from Liuliqiao Long Distance Bus Station. You will get off the bus at Jinshanling Intersection and then either hike or take a taxi to the Great Wall. The buses depart every hour beginning at 8:00 am.

Many tourists will take either a bus tour or private car leaving directly from Beijing. The hostels and hotels will be able to provide more information on the bus tours or you may find a tour promoter near such tourist attractions as the Forbidden City. Be sure to bargain the tour prices as they are set a little high.

A private car service may be ideal for small groups of friends and travelers. Here is Beijing is a local service that we would recommend.

(Blog contributed by TheBJReviewer on October 27, 2011)

Related photos: