About 100 kilometers west of Beijing, in Huailai County, are pieces of the ancient Great Wall, built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), as well as the country’s largest ancient post station.
With fewer visitors and a less commercialized feel, this area offers traces of the past without the crowds that constantly remind you that you’re stuck in the present.
Yangbian Great Wall as model
Xiaonan Xinbu Town, located in the southeast of Huailai County, Hebei Province, is about 120 kilometers from Beijing. The ancient town is near Guanting Lake in the north and connects to Dingdu Mountain in the south. It has many historical sites. The most magnificent is Yangbian Great Wall.
Located in the mountain near Miaogang Village, it’s also called the Miaogang Great Wall. The high peaks and deep valleys made this an important defensive stronghold in ancient times. The old wall zigzags through the mountain.
Locals are very proud of the Yangbian Great Wall. “If it was closer to Beijing, it’d definitely surpass Badaling’s fame,” a villager said.
Compared to the Great Wall around Beijing, Yangbian is comparatively “wild.” It was built using stones and rocks in irregular shapes from the mountainside. The wall itself, however, is sturdy. The tops are paved with large slabs of stone. Ochre moss grows on the stones form different patterns.
The wall, with renovations, stretches for more than 10 kilometers. The original Yangbian section accounts for 2.5 kilometers.
It is said that Xu Da, a Ming general, constructed part of the wall here as a model for the Juyongguan Pass. The model had a working beacon tower that made the wall look impregnable.
Legend has it that an inspector shot arrows at the wall as part of the test.
After hundreds of years though, some parts of the Wall are broken, by both the weather and people who needed stones to build houses.
Another place to see in the area is Lijinggou Village in Xiaonan Xinbu Town, which features dozens of ancient cave dwellings.
The small village is built on a unique landform. With a large loess base, villagers live in large caves. They sleep on adobe kang beds that also serve as a stove top. Some homes are decorated with black-and-white photos that hint at how life was lived many years ago.
The caves are cool during the summer and warm in the winter. Many elders who have grown up there prefer living in caves over furnished apartments.
Several caves have been renovated to receive tourists. Villagers plan to open tea houses and bars in the caves, letting urban dwellers experience a different type of lifestyle.
(From: Beijing Today, By Zhang Dongya)
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