Ponder for a moment the vastness of its size and marvel its rich history and glory. With every inch it took planning, it took struggle, and it took ambition. Look down at your feet as you travel on the manifestation of dreams for ages to come.
~ Travelled Paths ~
Ying Zheng ponders up and down the chambers of his palace bedroom. The distant sound of the fourth geng strike can be heard, but he can’t get back to sleep. The sudden chirp of crickets had startled him. In the confines of his bedroom, without the presence of his bodyguards and concubines, he can finally shrug of the heavy load of being Shihuang-ti for the day and to become whom he really is – an insecure person.
No one would blame him for being insecure. After the exile of his stepfather and the many attempted assassinations by his enemies, life has become a struggle. He also has a great reason to fear because he has just eliminated six rival states to finally unite China for the first time under the supreme rule of the Qin dynasty.
Thoughts of a pending threat from the north has put him through sleepless nights, wondering when will the next wave of attack will come.
The Autumn moon is shining brightly tonight. Ying Zhen opens the window and is greeted by a bright display of yellow flowers in the courtyard. Inspiration comes to him and he retreats back to his study. A wry smile comes to his face as he pens what turns out to be A Fortress of 10 Thousand Li.
Huanghuacheng is fast becoming popular with hikers and tourists who are looking for something a little different in their Great Wall experience. When you reach the middle of the wall, you will be able to see that the countryside is swathed in yellow thanks to masses of wild flowers that have come into bloom. From this beautiful sight, we will then cross over onto the Xishuiyu section.
What is so special about today’s hike is that part of the wall is under water! The Xishuiyu Reservoir was constructed in 1974 by the local government. When the water level rose, some low-lying sections of the wall were submerged under the water. Seen from the dam of the reservoir, this stately sunken wall is still visible under the water’s smooth and glimmering surface.
The Huanghuacheng dates to the Ming Dynasty, which means it can date back to the 14th century. It’s located at Jiuduhe Town, which is a short drive from Beijing City. The mountains and lakes in the region make for a stunning backdrop for the Great Wall. It is amazing, breathtaking, and awe-inspiring in a truly unique way.
Why is this section called Huanghuacheng? It is because of those beautiful yellow flowers that grace the landscape. The name translates directly to “yellow flower.”
You’ll also find by the Great Wall the characters “jin” and “tang,” which means very firm and strong. These characters carry with them their own legend as it is said that Cai Kai, a general during the Ming Dynasty, was ordered to build this portion of the wall. It took several years to accomplish this task and a great amount of money, which ultimately meant that Cai Kai lost his life because the Emperor believed the word coming from the region that his general was squandering the allocated money.
Ministers were dispatched to check on the wall’s construction. They saw immediately that it was strongly fortified, so the Emperor had these characters carved into the cliff to honor Cai Kai. That’s why this part of the Great Wall is also called Jintang (Firm and Strong).
Here are the specifics of the journey:
- It is about a 2 hour drive out of Beijing City to reach Huanghuacheng.
- We were greeted by downpours and chilling wet weather.
- The Great Wall has a slippery slope, broken pathways, and a steep height.
- Type of terrain: Jungle/gravel
- Weather Conditions: Foggy, wet, chilly around 16C.
- Duration of hike: Almost 5 hours
There was a lot of fog on this day, but that didn’t spoil the view. It made the entire journey seem mysterious in some ways. An understanding of why the wall needed to be built with all of this fog suddenly made sense. How could you see an enemy army approaching with a view like this?
As you can see, the journey along the Great Wall is sometimes quite difficult. There are great rewards with this difficulty, however, and not all of them are related to the stunning vistas that a camera can capture. The Great Wall makes you reflect on the condition of your soul. It requires you to stay strong in the midst of personal adversity, but it is an investment that is well worth making.
The valleys and mountains of this portion of the Great Wall are stunning. Even in the fog, with the views lessened, there are still amazing sights to be seen. It is certainly one of those memories that we will treasure for a long, long time.
Some might find beauty in the restored sections of the wall, but I am particularly attracted to the ruins. These sections show the craftsmanship of the ancient craftsman. Their hands placed these stones. Their creativity created these gateways. It is a very humbling experience.
“This place has amazing view of Great Wall winding not only on top of peaks but also going through a beautiful lake.”
“The terrain was much more rugged and the wall was very steep in places.”
“Not as crowded as other locations.”
“Be aware that the steps are at different levels and are very steep,the views are great and it is special just being there well worth a visit.”
“There is a mix of old (wild) wall that has deteriorated over the past 500-odd years and renovated sections which provide a stark contrast. There are very steep sections on the old and new walls so be prepared with proper footwear and lots of water if it is a hot day. There will be no vendors with cold drinks on this part of the wall.”
This Is Only the Beginning of Things To Come!
This adventure along the Great Wall will change you in many ways. It touches you on a deeply personal level in a way that nothing else can ever do. Join us here over the next few days as we complete this adventure and look at how this amazing accomplishment of human ingenuity can inspire anyone to do great things.
Day 2 – The Great Wall of China Hike (Jiankou)
Day 3 – The Great Wall of China Hike (Jiankou to Mutianyu)
Day 4 – The Great Wall of China Hike (Gubeikou to Jinshanling)
Day 5 – The Great Wall of China Hike (Jinshanling to West Simatai)
See the video we have created from the images we captured during this journey
If you have already toured the Great Wall, no matter what the section may have been, please feel free to share your observations about the travelled path you took and what you learned from the experience in the comments section below.