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The Great Wall
Simatai, Jinshanling, Gubeikou

Beijing Travel Guide logo (China).

The Gubeikou-Simatai-Jinshanling section of Great Wall runs for more than 20 kilometers and has 143 watchtowers, each positioned at an average interval of 156 meters. The nearest two are only 30 meters apart.

The Great Wall here has unique architectural characteristics. The watchtowers vary in design; while some have a flat ceiling, others either have an arched, domed or octagonal ceiling. The towers are also different in size, some with two floors. The largest one can accommodate a garrison of 100 soldiers, and the smallest one a garrison of 10 soldiers. The main part of today's Great Wall here was constructed under the supervision of Xu Da, a noted general in the Ming Dynasty.

SiMaTai Great Wall

SiMaTai Great Wall, 145 km northeast of Beijing city, is 5.4 km long with 35 watchtowers. Hanging precariously onto the YanShan Mountains, SiMaTai Great Wall is known for its steepness, ruggedness and outstanding beauty. SiMaTai Great Wall connects with JinShanLing Great Wall to the west.

Originally built during the Northern Qi dynasty and rebuilt in the HongWu years of the Ming dynasty by Qi JiGuang, this section of the Great Wall is the only part of the wall that retains all the original features of the Ming Dynasty wall. The bricks used to build the walls here were stamped with the date on which they were made and the code numbers of the armies that made them.

Ingeniously conceived and uniquely designed, SiMaTai Great Wall, inimitable yet diversified, has incorporated a number of different characteristics of other sections of the Great Wall.

SiMaTai is densely dotted with watchtowers; the nearest two are only 44m apart. The walls are in single, double and trapeze forms and the watchtowers are sometimes round in shape and composed of 1, 2 or 3 floors. Even the roofs of the towers are diverse: some are flat, some cymbi form and some domical shaped.

SiMaTai Great Wall is separated into two parts (east and west) by a valley. The west part is relatively gentle with 20 well-preserved watchtowers. The east part is steep and precipitous with 15 watchtowers on the 1000 m high peaks, making a journey you will never forget. You can cross the valley on an Indiana Jones style bridge or by zip line.

There are two springs called the 'Mandarin Duck Springs' at the foot of SiMaTai Great Wall. The east one is cold, while the west is warm. The 2 springs join into one lake so half the lake is cold and the other half is warm. In winter, hot steam rises from the lake, forming a marvelous spectacle.

Built on precipitous mountain ridges, there are many places that are unmatched among other sections of Great Wall. The 'Heavenly Ladder' and the 'Sky Bridge' are particularly dangerous - they can make even the most intrepid tremble with fear.

In the east part, the main attractions include the following :

'Watching Beijing Tower'
This is regarded as the summit of the Simatai Section of the Great Wall with an elevation of 986 meters. It is the highest cultural relic in Beijing. From the tower at night one can see the distant lights of Beijing.

'Sky Bridge'
With a width of a mere 40 cm, this very narrow 100 m path connects the Fairy Tower to Watching Beijing Tower. Only a very brave, or perhaps foolish, man would want to pass across this stretch of wall. The sides of the ridge on which it sits are so steep that it seems one is walking along a narrow rope bridge.

'Fairy Maiden Tower'
This is the most beautiful of all the watchtowers. It looks like a slim fairy standing between shrubs and wild flowers. It has a sculpture of twin lotus flowers above the arched doorway. There is a legend that it was the dwelling place of an antelope who had been reincarnated in the form of an angel who then fell in love with a shepherd.

'Heavenly Ladder'
Leaning against a mountain slope with an almost 90 degree gradient, this is the route to the Watching Beijing and the Fairy Maiden Towers. Stretching up the steep mountain cliff, the narrowest part is just half a meter wide. It is like a ladder that rises into the heavens.

At SiMaTai Great Wall, it is a good idea to take the chair lift up to (or down from) the wall. It is also a good idea to take a lightweight rain jacket in your bag; because of the height of the mountains here, storms can arise suddenly on hot summer days.

JinShanLing Great Wall

JinShanLing Great Wall

JinShanLing ('Golden Mountain') Great Wall, about 140 km from Beijing, lies in the mountainous area in LuanPing county of Hebei province and was a key military stronghold. This section was mainly built from 1570 during the Ming dynasty. The 4 km long wall, although a bit smaller and narrower than BaDaLing and MuTianYu, features complicated and well preserved fortification systems and fantastic natural scenery.


The wall here is slightly in ruins and thereby has a special beauty. The wall is 7.8m high and 5m to 6m thick at the bottom. On the top, slabbed pavements are 4m wide with 2m high parapets on each side. On the side facing the enemy were 2 m high crenels, called DuoKou. On the upper part of the DuoKou are large openings used to watch and shoot at attackers, and on the lower part are small openings or loopholes, through which defenders could also shoot. In addition, there are 'obstacle-walls' built perpendicular to the parapets. These 'walls-within-walls' were used for continued defense against enemies who might have succeeded in scaling the wall.


Be prepared for a walk from the car park up to the wall.


Gubeikou Great Wall

Gubeikou, situated in Beijing's Miyun County, is 125 kilometers from Beijing city. Gubeikou has long been a town of military significance and on an important passage to the capital city. Gubeikou sits in a natural narrow pass through the Yanshan mountains. To the west of the pass are the Chaohe River and the Wohu Mountain, and to the east is the Panlong Mountain. From ancient times, Gubeikou has served as a route of strategic importance, linking the southern and northern areas of the Yanshan Range. As early as 2,500 years ago, a fortification was built here and was often reinforced throughout the following dynasties.

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