Category Archives: China

The Great Wall of China

One of the most impressive man-made structures I have ever seen is the Great Wall. And I am not talking about the small supermarket called “Great Wall” in the town where I grew up.

The UNESCO says the Great Wall “reflects collision and exchanges between agricultural civilizations and nomadic civilizations in ancient China“.

For a modern day tourist, going up the Great Wall sets your sight far and beyond: look from the place where people once toiled in the wall’s construction, those who guarded on the watch towers, those who have come from afar to conquer new land, those who steadfastly defended their land. Today the battles are long gone, people long dead, and boundaries drawn and redrawn. However the Wall and whatever remains of it, still stand, like a silent observer of history. A crumbling giant of time long past.

Being on the Great Wall simply puts one in perspective, making the minutiae of daily life even more insignificant.

Jinshanling, Sept 2009

Jinshanling, Sept 2009

Beijing_1 566

Jinshanling, Hebei Province, China. Sept 2009

Beijing_1 564

Beijing_1 578

Beijing_1 576

Parts of the Jinshanling section of the wall were left unmaintained since the Ming dynasty.

In Chinese, 万里长城 the Great Wall is known as The Long Wall of Tens of Thousands of Lis (one Li is about 300-500 metres depending on which era it was used in). Or more evocatively, the Long Wall of Immeasurable Number of Lis. It feels immeasurable alright: on a clear day, the Wall runs up and down the spine of the undulating hills as far as the eye could see.

Jinshanling, Sept 2009

Jinshanling, Sept 2009

Beijing_1 593

Jinshanling, Sept 2009

Beijing_1 659

Jinshanling, Sept 2009

Beijing_1 602

Jinshanling, Sept 2009

Beijing_1 599

On a day blessed with blue skies and sunshine. I wondered what it would it be like in winter, covered in snow?
Jinshanling, Sept 2009

I am lucky enough to have been to two separate sections of the Great Wall. The photos above were all taken during a 10.5km walk along the Jinshanling-Simatai (金山岭 司马台) section that straddles the Hebei and Beijing provinces. This route passes through 23 watch towers. After a while, I lost count of the watch towers. 

Thereafter it’s only another 7,990 km to conquer the Great Wall. 

To dryly quote Richard Nixon: “It is really a Great Wall!”

Here’s another section of the wall that is closer to Beijing  sometimes known as Huanghuacheng (黄花城) or the Shuichangcheng (水长城). 


Huanghuacheng, Aug 2012


Huanghuacheng, Aug 2012


Huanghuacheng, Aug 2012


Strictly speaking, this part of the Wall was not opened for visitors at the time visited. But we managed to scrambled up through a bush from the side.

Thoughts in transit

On my way back from Sapporo, I had a smooth transit in Shanghai thanks to the warm hospitality of dear friends.

I haven’t been back to Shanghai in years. The city is a sharp contrast from my past week spent in the natural beauty and simple tranquility of northern & eastern Hokkaido. Yet, instinctively I get why big cities such as this – despite its congestion, smog and indiscriminate display of wealth – beguiles and seduces. The buzz, the energy, the opportunities, the ladders to climb, the access to more networks, the people. Shanghai is not my kind of city. But I get its organic appeal, the charm of old Shanghai, or whatever is left of it, co-existing with the modern and fashionable. (On the other hand, a place like Dubai – I do not get it at all.)

Here’s a view of the old part of the city at Lu Wan district. Where does its future lie?