Gubeikou, Jinshanling, and Simatai

East of Mutianyu are the Gubeikou Pass and the adjoining Jin­shanling and Simatai sections of the structure. Located about 130 kilometers from Beijing and accessible by train, tour bus, or taxi, Gubeikou is the site of a critical pass through the Yanshan Moun­tains. To the east of the pass is the 10-kilometer-long Jinshanling section of the Wall. The initial section at Jinshanling has been ex­tensively repaired, but the Wall becomes progressively more dilapi­dated as one approaches Simatai. Still, it is possible to hike directly from Jinshanling to Simatai, a distance of about 30 kilometers. The approximately 5-kilometer-long section of the Wall at Simatai is re­garded as one of the most impressive. Precipitously steep in many places, this portion of the structure has undergone comparatively little repair in the modern period (compared with other major tour­ist sections of the Wall), and consequently the original Ming surface is particularly evident (which is probably why Xu Bing chose this section in 1990 for taking ink impressions of the side of the struc­ture in his Ghosts Pounding the Wall performance).

Gansu Province: Jiayuguan

Meaning “precious jade pass,” Jiayuguan is the site of one of the westernmost sections of the Wall, and it features one of the largest passes and best-preserved Ming forts. The Wall is located about six kilometers from the city of Jiayuguan, from which tourists can take taxis out and back. Construction on the pass began as early as 1372. According to a well-known legend, the official overseeing the construction asked the foreman how many bricks would be needed. Upon being told the number, the official expressed concern that that wouldn’t be enough, so the foreman added one more. When the pass was completed, precisely one brick was left over, and it is still on display today.

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