Jinshanling Great Wall
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
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
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
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.
Beijing Travel Attractions