Getting There

The vast majority of the extant Wall was built during the Ming dy­nasty, and many of the popular tourist sites have been extensively repaired during the past half century. These sites stretch from the Gulf of Bohai to the Ordos Desert, with the most popular ones clus­tered around Beijing. Below are brief introductions to the best — known of Wall sites.

Hebei Province: Shanhaiguan

The section of the Wall that is conventionally regarded as its east­ernmost terminus is located at Shanhaiguan in Hebei Province. Shanhaiguan, which means “mountain-sea pass,” is the name of a historic town approximately fifteen kilometers northeast of the metropolitan center of the port city Qinhuangdao, and marks the point where the Wall reaches the sea. The site at which the Wall actually meets the Bohai Sea is known as Laolongtou (Old Dragon’s Head). An important feature of Shanhaiguan is the Zhendong Tower, also known as “First Pass under Heaven,” and other tourist attractions in the area include a Mengjiangnu Temple and a Great Wall museum.

Beijing Region

Many of the most popular sections of the Wall are located in the re­gion around Beijing. Their location near the capital makes them easily accessible for tourists today, and it also means these sites were much more strategically important when the Wall was being constructed during the Ming.

Badaling and Juyongguan

Constructed mostly during the sixteenth century, Badaling has been the premier tourist section of the Wall ever since the poet-turned — bureaucrat Guo Moruo called for this stretch to be thoroughly re­paired, in 1952. In 2001 the completion of the Badaling Express­way from the capital made traveling to this section of the Wall even more convenient. Actually, there are three separate Wall exits from the expressway. The first leads to Juyongguan Pass, which includes a fort and a stretch of the Wall. The next exit leads to a less-visited section, which features a steep section that affords climbers a spec­tacular view of the region, including part of the unrenovated “wild wall.” Finally, the granddaddy of Wall tourist destinations, the Badaling section, is accessible from the third Wall exit on the ex­pressway. Accoutered with amenities ranging from a cable car and a Starbucks to a pit of black bears, Badaling is visited by millions of people every year.


Located east of Juyongguan, Mutianyu is one of the best-preserved sections of the Wall and is easily accessible from Beijing by bus, train, or car. Construction at Mutianyu began in the early Ming, on a site where the Northern Qi had previously erected walls during the sixth century. Designed to protect the capital as well as the

[To view this image, refer to the print version of this title.]

Beijing-region sections of the Wall.

Meridian Mapping.

imperial tombs, this section features twenty-two densely arranged watchtowers, and is unusual in that it features crenellations on both sides of the wall, permitting it to be defended against attacks from either direction.

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