Friday, June 10, 2011

Saturday at the Wall ( no, not the mall)

I suppose the most recognizable landmark in China is the Great Wall.  The entire wall stretches for around 5,500 miles, running east to west.  About 4,000 miles is actual wall and the rest is made up of trenches, and natural defenses such as rivers and hills.
  Northern China was made up of little states and each had its own fortifications, but around 220 BC a man named Qin Shin Huang, conquered all the opposing states and decided there should be one wall loosely following the Mongol boarder.  Over the centuries the wall was added to and reinforced by different leaders and different building materials were used in the many types of terrain.  The majority of it was built during the Ming Dynasty from 1368 -1664.  Towards  the end of the Ming Dynasty the Manchus began an invasion in the 1600's and even though the wall helped to keep them out, in 1664 a Ming general who didn't like what was happening in his country opened the gate and let the Manchu's in, and thus the Qing Dynasty was born!!  During the Qing Dynasty Mongolia was taken as a part of China and the wall fell into disrepair.  The portions that are the oldest were made of rammed earth and lots of these sections are almost gone now, while some have been repaired, and restored, like the section we went to.
There are different sections that are open to the public. We went to Mutianyu which is about an hour to 2 hours (depending on the traffic) out of Beijing. It has quite a long incline from the parking lot to the base of the cable car which takes you up to the actual wall.  Of course there is lots of things you can buy along the way!!  It was around 32 that day so you needed an umbrella.
Preparing to climb with the help of a cane!!
This lady giving Blaine his ticket was our driver that Darryl had hired for the day.  She drove us all over and was so helpful, always trying to find the easiest way for me to get from A to B.  For a whole day it cost about $100 Can.  It was so much nicer than having to ride buses and trains.  She didn't speak English and Darryl  doesn't speak Mandarin but they'd carry on a conversation like they both knew what the other was saying.  It was hilarious to listen to!
We weren't' sure why this camel was here, but he doesn't look too happy with his lot in life!!
Heading up the cable cars.  It's 732 m long and 640 m high.  Thank goodness for them!!  Darryl and Blaine taught together when we were in Chaplin 30 some years ago. He has been here for 6 years, and married a Chinese lady, and now they are going back to Canada.
Our first glimpse!!
Through the arch and onto the wall!  Who would have thunk!!
Tower 14!!  These were barracks for the soldiers and used as storage rooms for equipment.

Inside tower 14.  They look like good little soldiers all lined up!!  This is the main middle room and there is a kind of hallway that runs along the outside wall which has arched windows .

This is looking out the opposite side of # 14.  At each tower the direction changes somewhat.
 The towers come in many different shapes and sizes.  In some areas the towers are 3 stories high and some have domed roofs, flat roofs, and V shaped roofs depending in what era they were built and the materials available.  This section is pretty much all brick.
Even here they have decorations.  The modern touches kind of take away from it though!!
On the other side of this tower the terrain changes dramatically.  This was the end for me, but Blaine and Darryl carried on for a ways.  Blaine said the stairs on this side were rather rickety and scary and these are the restored ones!
Who needs a stair stepper when you have these!!  The Mutianuy section is 2,250m in length and has an elevation of 535m.  There are 22 turreted towers.  It's main function was to defend the capital and the Imperial tombs.  The towers in this area were made so that they could shoot out of both sides.  No other part of the wall was built in this way.  I guess they were afraid of enemies from within and without!
The signal towers were set on the crests of the highest points.  Apparently soldiers assigned to the wall stayed there for their whole life and the families started the little villages at the base.  Each watch tower had a torch or flag to signal if an enemy was spotted.
Isn't this just the most crazy and amazing sight? This type of structure with the two towers on either side is only seen at this section and is the Mutianuy Pass. The watch towers are closer together here (one every 100 m rather than the usual 500) than on any other  part of the wall.  The wall not only kept the Mongols out, but also protected the Silk Road which was the main route from east to west in ancient times.

Two old ladies and their canes!!  I had some interesting conversations with people as l waited for the guys to come down.  There were the two guys from Czechoslovakia who asked me if l was single because they were single for two weeks!!  Then there was this lady and her husband who had brought her children and grandchildren who were visiting them from the states.
She was such a friendly person and had some really insightful things to tell about China.  During the cultural revolution she had been sent to work in one of the camps and said how difficult that time had been, and of course no one could leave for many years. Back in the 50's she had visited this section of the wall.  Both she and her husband were retired professors at the university.  She was an electrical engineer and had lived in Beijing most of her life except for some time in the states, had been to Canada twice and spoke fluent English.  She said life was pretty good here now but they still had lots of things that needed changing.  I so enjoyed visiting with her.

Panoramic view from the platform below the entrance to the actual wall.
Heading back down.  The little village is at the bottom there.
Of course l had to stop and do a bit of shopping.  I love all the bright colors.
Darryl bought himself a lovely accordion pleated paper hat to add to his collection!!!

Part of the village below the wall.  The buildings are almost all grey with walls around the compound where all the families live.  In Beijing they are call hutongs.  Having bricks in front of your house says that you are prospering and can build.  If you can come to Beijing, the wall is worth coming for. It is one of the wonders of the ancient world!!! (You also wonder why on earth they built it!!)
There is a Chinese saying "There is no good man who has not been up the Great Wall"

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