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Home >> China City Guide >> Beijing >> Jinshanling Great wall - Beijing tour information

Jinshanling Great Wall


Jinshanling Great wall
Jinshanling Great wall
Jinshanling Great wall, Beijing

The Jinshanling Great Wall straddles the ridges of the Jinshanling Mountains, about 10 kiloinetreseast of Gubeikou, it is generally regarded asthe most scenically impressive section of the Great Wall.

Looking out from the top of the wall oneis overwhelmed by the visual panorama. Tothe south are layer upon layer of mountainswith sparsely scattered villages hidden intheir valleys. To the southwest the MiyunReservoir is wreathed in patches of mist andvapour. To the north lies a soft greenblanket of undulating mountains, overwhich the Great Wall slithers lazily, following the terrain, interspersed with forts andtowers standing out in bold relief.

Towards its eastern end the wall climbssteeply up a mountainside. At the top, 982metres above sea level, rests a fort 14.4metres long, 8.2 metres wide and ninemetres tall. From there, it is said, one cansee the lights in Beijing at dawn under aclear sky, and for this reason it is also knownas the "Tower for Observing Beijing". Byday the whole of the garrison district ofGubeikou comes within one's field of vision.Looking out from this tower, more thanfrom any other vantage point, the viewerbegins to comprehend fully the awesomelength of the Great Wall.

The tower is a brick structure built on afoundation of huge stone slabs each weighing more than one ton. How these stoneswere ever brought up the precipice hasremained a mystery.
To the east of the tower is an unscalablemountain too high to build a wall on. But anumber of forts are built half-way up. To thewest the tower is linked to a fort by a stretchof stone wall more than 50 metres long. Thewall, because it is built on a ridge with asharp drop of more than 100 metres on eachside, is less than half a metre wide, andwalking along it is risky even for an experienced mountaineer. The ridges further tothe west are increasingly wider, and aresurmounted by two-metre high parapets ontheir outer side. Uncrenellated, the parapetsnevertheless have many openings at different heights, from which archers could shootwhile standing, kneeling or lying down.

There are a great many forts on the wall,arranged at intervals of 50 to 100 metresdepending on the terrain. By the middle ofthe Ming dynasty many new weapons, including flintlock muskets and cannons, hadbeen developed, so General Qi Jiguang hadhis builders erect the forts within easy reachof each other. This allowed the defenders tolay down a crossfire and effectively block allthe approaches an enemy would be likely touse.
The forts vary considerably in shape andstructure. Some of them are square, someoblong and some right-angled. Some of theirroofs are flat, some are arched, and one hasupturned eaves at its corners. The numberof archery openings differs, ranging fromtwo to five. Some of the forts have a centralwell for hoisting water. Some forts havebrick shelters built on their roofs, for thesentries to use in bad weather.
Forts used as headquarters by front-linecommanders are usually larger in size andnestled somewhere deep in a ravine. Theyinvariably have annexes like storehouses,troops' living quarters, enclosure walls andouter ramparts.

Most of the forts along the wall havethrough corridors connecting the two sections of the wall walkway. But although thisallows for the rapid deployment of walldefenders, it also serves the enemy oncethey have climbed up. So every now andthen one of the forts has no' through passage. In order to get from one section of thewall to the other, one has to descend astairway to the ground floor and return tothe roof by another stairway. Again, to helpfrustrate an attacking force that has mountedthe wall, some of the forts have one entrancelevel with the pavement, and the other oneand-a-half to two metres higher. Some of theforts have no stairways between floors.Removable rope ladders were employed, sothat defenders could continue their resistance from the upper floor until reinforcements arrived.

Because of the dense distribution of fortsalong the Jinshanling Great Wall, alarmmessages could be relayed by drums, gongs,bugles, signal flags or the second floorapparatus for smoke or fire signals.
There are many ravines and gullies northof the Jinshanling wall that could be exploited by an enemy mounting sneak raidsor a surprise attack. Hence many of the fortshave passages allowing defenders easy access to the outside, enabling patrols to bedeployed and counter-raids organized.
Viewed as a whole, the Jinshanling GreatWall is a perfect example of the defensivestrategy of the Ming dynasty, which calledfor the erection of fortifications in depth,entrenchment high and low, and solid defence of every inch of land. Moreover, it ischaracterized by a rational layout, meticulous and adroit calculation in design, andclever architectural variations. The visitor isas deeply impressed by the talent and resourcefulness of the builders as he is overwhelmed by the magnitude of the project.

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