Home>>China Travel Guide>>Beijing Travel Guide>>Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China   Pictures of Great Wall  Great Wall Map

The Great Wall of China is a series of stone and earthen fortifications in northern China, built originally to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by various nomadic groups. Several walls have been built since the 5th century BC that are referred to collectively as the Great Wall, which has been rebuilt and maintained from the 5th century BC through the 16th century. One of the most famous is the wall built between 220-206 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. Little of that wall remains; the majority of the existing wall was built during the Ming Dynasty.

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall stretches from Shanhaiguan in the east, to Lop Nur in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia. The most comprehensive archaeological survey, using advanced technologies, has recently concluded that the entire Great Wall, with all of its branches, stretches for 8,851.8 km (5,500.3 mi). This is made up of 6,259.6 km (3,889.5 mi) sections of actual wall, 359.7 km (223.5 mi) of trenches and 2,232.5 km (1,387.2 mi) of natural defensive barriers such as hills and rivers.

History of Great Wall

First Great Wall
The First Great Wall was ordered built in 214 BC by Qin Shih Huang Ti after he had finished consolidating his rule and creating a unified China for the first time. The wall was designed to stop raids by the Xiongnu raiders from the north. 500,000 laborers were used during the 32 year building period to create the First Great Wall.

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

Although the wall worked at keeping out enemies, it did nothing to stop internal pressures which lead to a regime change in 206 BC and the new leadership of the Han Dynasty. The first Han emperor, Taizong, was quick to see the benefits of the wall against the raiders and ordered more wall to stretch out as far as Zhaoxiang, Gansu Province.

Second Great Wall
Over 70 years later, the Han Dynasty were still fighting the raiders since the Great Wall had been left to deteriorate and the raiders had breached it in several places. In 130 BC, Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty embarked on a program of extending, rebuilding and fortifying the original First Great Wall. After the emperor finished adding more regions under his rule in 127 BC, he ordered a major expansion program that created the Second Great Wall, outposts in Zhangye, Wuwei, Jiuquan, Dunhuang and Yumenguan in Gansu Province and Lopnor and other outposts in Xinjiang Province. The Great Wall was extended down the Hexi Corridor through which the Silk Road traders would travel on the way to and from the West.

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

When the Han Dynasty fell apart into the three kingdoms of the Wei, Shu and Wu, the northern Wei kingdom decided to continue maintaining the Great Wall so that they could keep out the Rouran and Qidan nomads from the northern plains. Despite the constant maintenance, the Wall kept being breached by the Rouran nomads. Additional walls were built inside and outside of the Great Wall by the different kingdoms. Eventually the Wei kingdom merged with the unifying Sui kingdom and was overthrown by the Tang Dynasty in 618 AD.

Nothing more was done to the Great Wall until the reign of the Liao and Song dynasties. The Liao Dynasty controlled the north while the Song Dynasty controlled the south. The Liao were troubled mainly by a tribe in the northeast region of China called the Nuzhen (known as Manchu in Mandarin) so they built defensive walls along the Heilong and Songhua rivers. These failed to stop the raiders from coming south.

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

Third Great Wall
In 1115, the Nuzhen established the Jin Dynasty and since they were from the north themselves, understood that the Mongols were right behind them. The Jin emperor ordered the construction of a Third Great Wall to be built in Heilongjiang Province and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The walls built had the characteristics of having ditches running along the walls full length.

Despite the impressive fortifications built, the Mongols overthrew the Jin in 1276 and established the Yuan Dynasty. During the Yuan dynasties rule, the Wall fell into deep disrepair and in 1368, the Chinese Ming Dynasty walked right in and took control.

The Ming Dynasty, after getting rid of the Mongols, determined that they would never be taken again by outsiders. The first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Hongwu, re-established manning of the Great Wall, fortresses and garrisons were built along the wall, and the fort at Jiayuguan was built in 1372 at the western end of the wall. The second Ming emperor, Yongle, turned his focus outward from the empire and sent out explorers and diplomats into the big, wide world.

Fourth Great Wall
It was not until the battle of Tumu against the Mongols that renewed interest in reinforcing the Great Wall occurred. Between 1569 and 1583, the most well-known parts of the Great Wall were built, the Fourth Great Wall. The reinforced wall managed to repel Mongols several times.

The Manchu retook China in 1644 and formed the Qing Dynasty. From this point on, the Wall slowly started to fade away while stone and rocks were taken from the Wall for building projects and homes. The Cultural Revolution definitely took its toll out on the wall when local people and local governments were encouraged to help dismantle the Great Wall.

It was not until 1984 that President Deng Xiaoping started a restoration and protection project of the Great Wall. In 1987, the Great Wall was declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Notable Areas of the Great Wall

Badaling Great Wall
Address: Yanqing County, 70 km from Beijing's city proper;
Entry ticket: 45 yuan/person;
Traffic: Tourist Bus No.s 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5; or Bus No. 919 from Deshengmen Bus Station; or drive along the Badaling Expressway via Madian Overpass;
Tel: 86-10-69121235, 86-10-69121338.

Remnant of the Great Wall at Badaling
Address: Donggou Village, Badaling Town, Yanqing County;
Entry ticket: 50 yuan;
Traffic: Bus No. 919 from Deshengmen;
Tel: 86-10-69120990.

Juyongguan Great Wall
Address: North of Changping, government seat of Changping District;
Entry ticket: 40 yuan/person;  
Traffic: Bus No. 919 from Deshengmen; or Tourist Bus No.s 1-5; or drive along the Badaling Expressway;
Tel: 86-10-69771665.

Shuiguan Great Wall
Address: Badaling, Yanqing County;
Entry ticket: 12 yuan/person;    
Traffic: Bus No. 919 from Deshengmen.

Mutianyu Great Wall
Address: Huairou District;
Entry ticket: 35 yuan;
Traffic: Tourist Bus No. 6 from Xuanwumen, Qianmen and Dongsi Shitiao; or take Bus No. 916 from Dongzhimen to Huairou, and then change to a local bus or hire a taxi (17 km);
Tel: 86-10-61626873, 86-10-61626022.

Xiangshuihu Great Wall
Address: Huairou District, 8 km west of Mutianyu;
Entry ticket: 18 yuan;
Traffic: Take Bus No. 916 (extending line) from Dongzhimen, or take Bus No. 916 to Huairou and then change to a local bus or hire a taxi;
Tel: 86-10-89602539.

Lianyunling Great Wall
Address: Dazhenyu Village, Huairou District;
Entry ticket: 18 yuan;
Traffic: Take Bus 916 from Dongzhimen to Huairou, and then change to a local bus or hire a taxi.

Huanghuacheng Great Wall
Address: Chengguan Town, Huairou District;
Entry ticket: Not yet formally open;
Traffic: Take Bus No. 916 from Dongzhimen to Huairou and then change to a local bus or hire a taxi;
Tel: 86-10-61651004.

Heituoshan Jiankou Great Wall
Address: Northwest of Huairou;
Entry ticket: Free of charge;
Traffic: Take Bus 916 from Dongzhimen to Huairou, and then change to a local bus or hire a taxi;
Tel: 86-10-61611674, 86-10-61611614.

Bailingguan Great Wall
Address: Toudaogou Village, Miyun County;
Entry ticket: Free of charge;
Traffic: Take a bus from Dongzhimen to Miyun, and then change to a local bus, or hire a taxi;
Tel: 86-10-81022491.

Jinshanling Great Wall
Address: On the border between Beijing's Miyun County and Hebei's Luanping County.
Entry ticket: 30 yuan/person;
Traffic: Take Train L671, which starts at 7:25 AM from Beijing North Railway Station, and get down at Gubeikou; or take a bus from Dongzhimen to Miyun and then change to a local bus or hire a taxi."

Simatai Great Wall
Address: Gubeikou Town, Miyun County;
Entry ticket: 30 yuan;
Traffic: Tourist Bus No. 12 from Xuanwumen and Dongsi Shitiao; or take bus from Dongzhimen to Miyun and then change to a local bus or hire a taxi;
Tel: 86-10-69031051, 86-10-69035025.