Friday, August 13, 2010

Great Wall of China

We went to the Huanghua section of the wall, for which my Lonely Planet guidebook has an excellent description:

"The ever-popular sections of the Great Wall at Huanghuā, 60km from Beijing, have breathtaking panoramas of partially unrestored brickwork and watchtowers snaking off in two directions. There is also a refreshing absence of amusement park rides, exasperating tourist trappings and the full-on commercial mania of Bādalǐng and other tourist bottlenecks. Clinging to the hillside on either side of a reservoir, Huanghuā is a classic and well- preserved example of Ming defences with high and wide ramparts, intact parapets and sturdy beacon towers. Periodic but incomplete restoration work on the wall has left its crumbling nobility and striking authenticity largely intact, with the ramparts occasionally dissolving into rubble.

It is said that Lord Cai masterminded this section, employing meticulous quality control. Each cùn (inch) of the masonry represented one labourer's whole day's work. When the Ministry of War got wind of the extravagance, Cai was beheaded for his efforts. In spite of the trauma, his de- capitated body stood erect for three days before toppling. Years later a general judged Lord Cai's Wall to be exemplary and he was posthumously rehabilitated. The wall was much more impressive before parts of it were knocked down to provide stones for the construction of the dam.

Despite its lucrative tourist potential, the authorities have failed to wrest Huanghuā from local villagers, who have so far resisted incentives to relinquish their prized chunks of heritage.

Official on-site signs declare that it's illegal to climb here, but locals pooh-pooh the warnings and encourage travellers to visit and clamber on the wall. Fines are rarely enforced, although a theoretical risk exists."

It may be 'ever-popular' but when we went, there were not many other people there which was great. As you can see in one of the photos, we found a cat paw-print in one of the wall's stone slabs. We wondered if it is 2000 years old but much of the wall is more recently restored so it might not be.

1 comment:

  1. You have done Beijing proud re seeing the sights.

    Travel well to Mongolia-try and avoid drinking mares fermented milk-stick to beer!