The Great Wall was initially built in the Spring and Autumn Period, and for the 2, 000 years that followed, the construction, connection and restoration of the wall had never ceased. The Great wall we still see today was largely built in the Ming Dynasty. The Badaling stretch is the best preserved portion of the Ming Great Wall and widely realized as the representative and essence of the Ming Great Wall. As an outpost of the Juyong Pass, this section of the wall with latitude of 1, 015 meters, had long been a strategic location for military purpose. On the top of Badaling and look to the distant, one will be amazed at the great wonder of the Wall.
In 1961 here was listed by the Chinese State Council as a key national historical heritage protection site, in 1988 it was nominated by the UNESCO as a world cultural heritage. In the 1991 Forty Important Chinese Scenic Spots Nomination, Badaling was recommended as the No. 1 tourist attraction in China.
Badaling Great wall is about 70 kilometers northwest of Beijing. The Badaling Expressway shortens the trip by car from Beijing to about 40 minutes. The Wall here averages 7.8 meters high, 6.5 meters wide at the base and 5. 8 meters on the top, wide enough for five horses or ten men walking abreast on the wall. The Wall contains a large number of beacon towers and watchtowers. Standing on these still strong tower, one can see the grandeur as well as the difficulty of this great ancient project.
From the ancient time, Badaling has occupied a militarily important position. In the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring State Period, the Great Wall was built by the states around here in an attempt to block the horsemen from the north, whose layout and position had great influence upon the Ming Great Wall built over one thousand years later. According to the book The Night Talk in Chang'an published in the Ming Dynasty, here is a place where numerous roads meet, therefore from here one can go to any direction. Its name - Badaling, or literally a hill from which one can go to 8 directions (in China "8 directions" mean all direction and places) well depicts the situation. Furthermore, here is the summit of the Guan Mountain. This ancient literature tells the strategic location of Badaling.
During the early years of Ming Dynasty, the central government moved its capital from Nanjing (a city in south China) to Beijing. Afterwards the emperors attached great importance to the rebuilding of the Great wall as a key defense project against the northern invaders like Manchu. One of the famous national generals Qi Jiguang, known for his leadership in the battle against the Japanese pirates in the East China Sea, was sent here as a supervisor general for the construction project. Altogether, the Ming government spent eight years, countless wealth and manpower on the Great Wall. In the past Badaling was the gateway to Juyong Pass. A 40 kilometers long valley connecting the Badaling Great wall and today's Nankou, Juyong Pass was built on this valley. As a result, the valley is also called the Pass Valley. Badaling commands the highest point of the Pass Valley, an old Chinese saying tells the crucial position of Badaling: if one man guards the pass, ten thousand cannot get through. Badaling witnessed a number of important historical events. When the first emperor of China - Qing Shihuang went to Jieshi in the east and returned to his capital Xianyang in the west, he passed here. The first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty brought his savage horsemen down to central china from the north, Badaling was a key point that they tried to take. When the Ming emperors went out of the Great Wall to attack the enemy in the north, their troops gathered here. It was also here that the peasant rebellion leader Li Zhichen broke into Beijing and overthrown the Ming empire. In China's modern age, a lot of important events were related to Badaling as well. For instance, when Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu fled the Eight Powers Allied Forces from Beijing in 1900, they passed Badaling. The first railway designed and built by the Chinese engineer Zan Tianyou – the Jingzhang (Beijing to Zhangjiakou) Railway came by Badaling and the Chinese democratic pioneer Dr. Sun Yat-sen climbed the Badalig Great Wall during his stay in Beijing.
Badaling Great wall was originally built in 1505 by Emperor Hongzhi, and its construction continued until the reigns of the following two emperors Jiangjing and Wanli. It functioned as an important military barrier for the empire's capital – Beijing.
Badaling Great Wall winds its way among the undulating high peaks. Badaling, situated out of the Juyong Pass, has two Pass gates: the Ju Yong Wai Zheng, in the east and Bei Men Shuo Yao in the west. The outer side of the wall is topped with crenellated battlements, which are about 2 meters high and have a square hole below for shooting arrows through and for keeping a watch over the enemy. The 1-meter high parapets are on the inner side. The bottom of the Wall here is laid up with big stone blocks while the upper parts were built with large pieces of rectangular shaped bricks. Steps were built on the steep slope and paved with huge stone blocks. Some of the huge stone blocks are two meters in length and hundreds of kilograms in weight.
The portion of the wall at Badaling has undergone frequent restoration, and in 1957 it was the first section of the wall open to tourists. Now visited annually by millions, the immediate area has seen significant development, including hotels, restaurants, and a cable car. The recently completed Badaling Expressway tremendously facilitates the trip from downtown Beijing to the Badaling Great wall. As the late Chinese leader - Mao Zedong wrote, if you have not climbed the Great Wall, you are not a true man. In the past several decades, over 300 important visitors from home and abroad have visited here, such as the former US president Nixon and British Prime Minister Mrs. Thatcher.
The Fortification of Badaling
Badaling Fortification is positioned at the northern entrance of the Pass Valley, from which one can easily go to Beijing in the south, Yanqing County in the north, Datong City in the west and Yongning County in the east. Its strategic location explains why Badaling (a hill that leads to any direction) is so named. The highest peak is over 1, 000 meters above the sea level. Standing on this commanding point, one naturally reminds the notable Chinese old saying: if one man safeguards the stratigic pass, ten thousand men cannot pass through. In the ancient time, Badaling was a very vital natural barrier to defend the central China, therefore it had been heavily guarded during the dynasties of Yuan, Ming and Qing.
Pass City (Urn City)
Badaling section of Great Wall consists of two pass cities. The eastern pass city, called "Juyong Outer Town", is an important outpost of the Juyong Pass and the western one is the so called "Bei Men Shuo Yao", or the "the Lock and Key of the Northern Gate" that refers to the generals who defended the northern China. The pass city we see today was built in 1505, being among the most well-known passes. There is a story about "Bei Men Shuo Yue." In the Song Dynasty, after the Song Government signed the peace treaty with the Liao Government, the Song Prime Minister Kou Zun was sent by the emperor to defend Damingfu. One day a Liao envoy passed Damingfu and saw Kou Zhun, he was rather surprised and asked, "As the Song prime minister, what are you doing here?" Kou Zhun seriously replied, "now there are no urgent and import problems in our central government, so I come here as 'the lock and key to the northern gate' of my country. Except me, nobody can fulfill this crucial mission." After that, the term of "lock and key to the northern gate" is meant to those brave generals who defended in the north of China.
Near today's Badaling Railway Station, there stands a huge magnificent castle and it is the ancient commanding office of the famous "Bei Men Shuo Yao" Pass City. According to the historical record, that Badaling was the commanding point of the Juyong Pass and the Turnoff City was the hedge of Badaling. In the ancient time there were three officers here called Bazong who commanded 800 soldiers.
Displayed near the entrance to the Badaling Great Wall are five pieces of ancient iron cannon, which were made in 1638 and the most advanced heavy weapon of the Ming Dynasty. The largest among the five is 2. 85 meters long, 105 mm in caliber and over 1, 000 meters in cannon- shot. On the body of the cannon there is a line of Chinese characters: the divine general ordered by the emperor. It was moved here in 1958 from Zhangpu, about 10 km east of Badaling. The other four smaller ones together with hundreds of cannon shells were unearthed on the spot in 1957. All these ancient weapons were made in the Ming Dynasty.
Badaling is the most typical and imposing portion of the Great Wall built during the Ming Dynasty. The outer part of the wall is made of numerous huge rampart bricks or granite block that is about one ton in weight. Filled with earth and gravels inside, the strong wall can survive for thousands of years. The rampart is 7.8 meters high, 6.4 meters wide, and 5.8 meters wide on the top. Five horses or ten men can wall abreast on the top. On the external side of the wall on the tops there are 1.7 meters to 2 meters high battlements, below which there may be holes for shooting arrows during a war. The structure inside the battlements are called Daughter's Wall and for security. On the wall the crevice between each brick and stone are so narrows that you not a single grass can grow from inside. Besides, the water discharge system of the wall is also very impressive. The Great Wall illustrated the great talents of the Chinese ancient architects.
Also called wall dais, it is a platform structure with battlements on the top. In the ancient time soldiers not only patrol on it but also took it as a defense work in the battle. The platform on the top of the Pass City Gate is a typical city dais.
Also called watchtower, a watch dais is usually a rectangular two storied structures built on the top of the Great Wall. The ground floor of a watch dais was the storeroom of weapons and has a number of small windows for archers. The upper floor contains battlements, peepholes and apertures for archers as well as beacon facilities for sending warning. Located at regular intervals, the watchtower is a very important component of the Great wall
War daises were blockhouse- like multiple storied structures built at regular interval on the Great Wall. A war dais was also a warehouse for ammunition and food. According to the historical record that under the supervision of General Qi Jiguang, over 1, 200 watch daises and war daises were built between Shanhai Pass and Beijing (the initial plan was 3, 000). When a battle broke out, soldiers could take the advantage of the high position of the war dais by shooting arrows and rocks and firing cannon etc. Normally each war dais was guarded by 60 soldiers with 150 kilograms of gunpowder. Apart from weapons, food and drinks for about one month was also stored in the platform.
Each beacon tower is an independent blockhouse, built at the commanding point of the Great Wall where the position is very important, dangerous and good for viewing the enemy. As a crucial part of this great defense work, a beacon tower is built every five to ten lis (2 lis = 1 kilometer). On the tower there are normally five beacon pillars for sending signals about the enemy. Fires were lit on the beacon towers at night and the smoke in the daytime. The number of the fires and smoke columns represented the numbers of the invading enemies. Since 1466, cannon were set off as an addiction to the fire and smoke. For example, one fire of the cannon and a smoke column represented the coming of 100 enemy soldiers, two fires of cannon plus two smoke columns signified 500 enemy soldiers, and three fires of cannon plus three smoke columns meant that over 1, 000 enemy soldiers had come… This ancient but efficient communication warning system had already been applied in the Zhou Dynasty over 2, 700 years ago.