Monday, 13 May 2013

From Shanhaiguan to Jiayuguan – My Great Wall journey

Chairman Mao once claimed “Those who have not climbed the Great Wall are not great men.” Abhorring to his call, I’m one of the few lucky ones that have the opportunity to explore the Great Wall of China from one end to the other. To complete such task, it took me a few years with visits to various locations around China to finally complete the whole Great Wall.
Another end of the Great Wall, Jiayuguan on a cold Spring morning.

To start with, the Great Wall of China has no definition which section is the beginning and which is the end. It all depends on where one starts. Another point is that the building of the Great Wall was indeed started by the First Emperor but today, none of the section of the wall that he built is still around. What we see today is mostly built during the Ming and the Qing dynasties except for some in the Gansu province that was built by the emperors of the Han and Tang dynasties.

The whole Great Wall is not linked together as many would have thought so. Only fragments that withstand the judgment of time and tribulations remains and some lucky ones have complete restoration. Those that have gone through complete restoration in return looked unauthentic to me. I still prefer the rustic ones but scaling them does test one’s stamina.
At the fully restored Jinshanling section.
The first section of the Great Wall that I first visited was the Badaling section which was internationally well known as it often play hosts to international dignitaries visiting Beijing. I can still remember my feelings on that cold winter morning when I scaled this monument. I was amazed at its structures, the people that built it.
One rainy afternoon at Shanhaiguan.
Of all sections of the Great Wall that I’ve scaled, the one I loved most was the Jiayuguan section, along the Silk Road in Gansu province with the majestic Qilian Mountains over its backdrops while the most disappointing one despite its name is actually the Shanhaiguan section.
If you are in Beijing and not too sure which one to scale, my personal recommendation will be the Gubeikou section of the Great Wall. This is also the section with the least visitor. On a good day, it will be as if your entire party occupies the whole Great Wall. It is about 120km away from Beijing towards the direction of Chengde. It is quite hard to find the entrance to this section of the Great Wall, so you will need to ask for directions and a very experienced driver. Forget about taking public transport.  Once you’ve reached one of the towers, you can have a bird eye view of the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall on the opposite end.
Desheng Bao section on top of the cliff.
 Another section of the Great Wall worth mentioning is the Desheng Bao section location near Datong in Shanxi province because it was right on top of the cliff of the famous Yungang Caves, famous for its Buddhism mural paintings and carvings.


  1. Hi, Jadryn, Well done ! These are great pictures! Which reminds me... I should go through my Inida pictures and post some. I log on to your blog on a regular basis. Having read this I thought it was rather informative. I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this article together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

    I also found a great blog of Jinshanling travel tips, I'd love to share it here with you and for future travelers.