Home Asia China Discovering the Architecture and History of the Great Wall of China

Discovering the Architecture and History of the Great Wall of China

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the less crowded – but equally stunning – section of the wall Photo by Abram Joseph Bondoc
the less crowded – but equally stunning – section of the wall Photo by Abram Joseph Bondoc

The Architecture and History of the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China – the world’s longest wall and largest ancient architecture. You’ve probably seen or heard about it – who doesn’t, anyway? It is China’s most iconic and famous landmark; an age-old defensive structure that represents four dynasties and crosses nine provinces and municipalities.

Also called Changcheng / channg-chnng and “Long Wall” in Chinese Photo by Abram Joseph Bondoc
Also called Changcheng / channg-chnng and “Long Wall” in Chinese Photo by Abram Joseph Bondoc

Contrary to what people think or imagine, the Great Wall of China is not a continuous line. This more than 2,300 years old UNESCO World Heritage Site features side, parallel and circular walls, as well as sections without walls. Trekking along its winding path provides striking sceneries of rugged country, lush foliage and steep mountains.

According to reports, nearly 1/3 of the Great Wall of China has disappeared without any trace.
According to reports, nearly 1/3 of the Great Wall of China has disappeared without any trace.

With a length of 21,196.18km (13,170.7 mi), the Great Wall has several sections, each posing a unique character; most of it already restored and equipped with sound tourism facilities. Badaling is the most popular and crowded section, though it also is the most complete and best-preserved part of the wall. Mutianyu, known as the “Grand Pass on the Precipitous Ridge”, is also one of the best-known sections with watchtowers tensely distributed along the path. Juyongguan is an impregnable pass built in accordance with the difficult terrain.


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The highest place in the whole Great Wall is 14 meters high.
The highest place in the whole Great Wall of China is 14 meters high.
The Great Wall is more than just a wall. It is an integrated military defensive system with watchtowers and fortresses. Photo by Abram Joseph Bondoc
The Great Wall is more than just a wall. It is an integrated military defensive system with watchtowers and fortresses. Photo by Abram Joseph Bondoc

Other popular sections but with fewer tourists are Simatai (offers an original appearance of the Great Wall), Jinshanling (tagged as the “Paradise of Photographers”), and Shuiguan (steep section ideal for hiking lovers). The Great Wall also has wild sections that were not reconstructed, thus retain their original appearances.

A more rural portion of the Great Wall that stretches throughout the mountains, here seen in slight disrepair photo via Wikipedia
A more rural portion of the Great Wall that stretches throughout the mountains, here seen in slight disrepair photo via Wikipedia

Though damaged and dilapidated, these sections reveal the wall’s change in history. Among the wild sections, Jiankou is the most dangerous while Huanghuacheng is partially submerged underwater. Gubeikou stand witness to many battles throughout Chinese history due to its strategic location.

Visitors keen on climbing the steep steps in the Mutianyu wall
Visitors keen on climbing the steep steps in the Mutianyu wall
A section of the Great Wall near Beijing - By Chris Flook - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
A section of the Great Wall near Beijing – By Chris Flook – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Among the Great Wall sections, we find Mutianyu the most favorable in terms of accessibility to Beijing. Not to mention the lesser crowd and the surrounding natural scenery. To get there, take the bus line 916 Express or 916 at Dongzhimen bus station to Huairou North Avenue. Travel time takes about 60-70 minutes. Transfer to bus line h23, h24, h35 or h36 to Mutianyu Roundabout. From there, you can either walk about 500 yards to the ticket office or take a minivan to the scenic area.

the less crowded – but equally stunning – section of the wall Photo by Abram Joseph Bondoc
the less crowded – but equally stunning – section of the wall Photo by Abram Joseph Bondoc
One needs to walk for hours to reach one end of a wall’s section. Photo by Abram Joseph Bondoc
One needs to walk for hours to reach one end of a wall’s section. Photo by Abram Joseph Bondoc

Having walked along the paved and uneven pathways of the Great Wall gave a glimpse of China’s magnificent architecture, creativity and history all in one. It’s one thing to see the structure’s grandeur in websites and glossy pages; it’s a totally different story to be actually there and get immersed in the mightiness and magnificence that is the Great Wall.

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