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The Huangyaguan Great Wall

The Huangyaguan Great Wall
By Dorothy Fourie

TP 201902 china 02榛勫礀鍏抽暱鍩

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TP 201902 china 03

Walking on the Great Wall of China has most probably been on the bucket list of many travellers since the beginning of travel. It had secretly been one of mine for many years, but never did I ever think I would actually reach such an amazing destination!

 

After living in Tianjin for three years, I finally had the opportunity to visit this part of the Great Wall in an area of about 42 kilometres from the General Pass in Beijing. Although I had seen the Great Wall before in a different area, nothing could have prepared me for the impact of this part of the Wall. I am not only referring to the overall immensity of this building endeavour. No, it鈥檚 more than that.

 

When you walk out in the early morning into the golden rays of the sun, you feel it: the presence, which is the being of this slate grey, unending bastion: the Great Wall of China. A nation created it to feel safe and secure against the marauding enemies of the time, around the 1400s and after.

TP 201902 china 04The Great Wall breathes like a giant python up against the gilded mountains of this precipitous Pass, called Huangyaguan, or 鈥淓ight Diagram Fortification City鈥. It stretches itself out, uncurling across 20 watchtowers over 3 kilometres. It used to be much longer, but a huge part of this wall crumbled away due to pressure of time and lack of renovation.

 

In the middle of this street block of one stretch of wall after the other, you find the museum where there are well-preserved weapons and daily utensils on display, used by the soldiers of the Ming Dynasty. There is also a feel of the deeply seated culture of this great nation, reflected by wonderful couplets inscribed on bamboo strips in the Couplet Hall.

TP 201902 china 05Although tourism has penetrated the historical being of the Great Wall, it is still right there, in its historical splendour. The fact that thousands of soldiers had lived there, had laid down their lives for their people and their leaders for so many centuries, had to have left some of their being part of it right there. So yes, when you arrive at the entrance of this part of the wall, you do find the hopeful vendors with their goods, hoping that you will take some cheap picture of the wall, or perhaps a fridge magnet to think of the great day in your life when you stepped onto the Great Wall in China. There are those stall owners with fruit and vegetables, dried fruit and also spices, all from around the villages in the area. There are little flags for sale, even toys for children accompanied by their parents or grandparents, who may find climbing this structure daunting.

 

But allow yourself moments of reflection when you step onto the first set of steep steps, which will take you higher and further up this structure. Big steps, high steps, which, if you are a short person like me, drain your energy quite quickly, along with the fact that you climb an unending amount of stairs for two hours. I couldn鈥檛 help but wonder about the people who actually built this wall 鈥 I could scarcely imagine those people carrying stones up here: up and down, up and down (I mean 鈥 how many bricks can one person carry at a time?), while I could hardly carry myself up the steep incline, and while I had to hold on to my husband鈥檚 arm and any part of the wall where I could find a place to hold on to. Then you reach a watchtower and on this part of the wall, most watchtowers have two storeys. Being this high up in the mountains, as well as standing on top of such a structure as a watchtower, would give soldiers the perfect view of the surrounding area.

 

I make it up to the top, quite steep part of this stretch. For a few moments I just lean out of a small window, soaking up this incredible view with my eyes. As far as I can see, there are mountains, with rounded rocks sticking out of the lush green trees and bush, so typical of the Chinese landscape paintings. Here I am looking at it, weeping willows and all. Down into the valley are big orchards filled with apple trees, that bear the most incredible sweet fruit.
I think the most striking part of being on the Wall of China is the historical moment. The wall is the proof that so much time has gone by, so many people lived and died around here; so many different rulers tread here, bringing new ideas. So many soldiers fought to preserve the idealistic dreams of their rulers.

TP 201902 china 06That evening, while I was lying on a (typically very hard) bed in a family home hotel in a nearby village, I whispered quietly into the night: was building this wall worth all the effort?

 

But no answer came from the darkness outside. No answer came from the surprisingly star studded night sky, or the wise moon that has surely seen everything that happened in this area over aeons.

 

Only a soft night wind was breathing through my window and far off, in the village, I heard people laughing and talking faintly. And somewhere a lonely dog was barking.

 

Huangyaguan is part of the southern mountains of the Jixian County in Tianjin.

TP 201902 china 07Take a long-distance bus from Tianjin Tongsha Passenger Station to Huangyaguan Great Wall directly. The buses depart at 7:10, 10:10, 14:00, and 15:00. Duration is about 2 hours and bus fare is CNY 48. Or you could take a bus from Tianjin Tongsha Passenger Station to Jixian County, and it takes about 1.5h. Upon arrival, take Jixian Bus No. 3 or a taxi to the Great Wall.

 

You also could take a train from Tianjin Railway Station or Tianjin North Railway Station to Jixian County Railway Station. It would take 1.5 - 2.5 hours and costs less than CNY 20 to the county. Then, charter a minibus to the scenic area.

 

Shuttle buses also leave regularly during the day from Beijing Sihui Bus Station to Jixian County.

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