How could I pass this one up? I was fortunate to walk on THE WALL two years ago on my solo trek to Beijing.
The Great Wall at Mutianyu was rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty in the 16th century upon the foundations of the wall built during the Northern Qi Dynasty (AD 550-77).
Before my once-in-a-lifetime visit to this testament to the determination of man, I did a lot of research and saw images of breath-taking vistas and panoramas of the wall snaking across the mountain ridges. However, that was not my wall. My wall was shrouded in mist…a mist that turned into the most awesome thunder and lightning storm I’ve ever experienced. At 3 PM, the black sky was punctuated with flashes of brilliant light that revealed torrents of rain.
An hour before the skies opened and Zeus let loose with his thunderbolts, I was lost on top of the wall. YES! I was alone and lost, standing at a Y in the wall, not recognizing a single brick or stone. To my relief, I was saved by young tourists from Northern Europe who pointed the way to the tram. Oddly enough, I was not afraid, only bemused, thinking, well, if I die, at least I’ve had this incredible adventure. I did not, however, welcome the idea of spending the night alone, huddled against the cold on the top of the wall.
Click on any image for a better view and description.
Imagine the hands that labored to build these steps on the top of the mountain, a half-day hike from the base.
This man allowed me to take his picture if I bought his postcards. It remains one of my favorites.
The steps are narrow and sometimes steep because the wall follows the ridges of the mountain.
Watchtowers, spaced two arrow shots apart to leave no part unprotected, were signal towers, living quarters, and storerooms.
Of course, it is impossible to get on or off the wall without passing through the corridor of vendors. I laughed with them as we haggled over the price of silk jewelry bags and chopsticks.
As I am putting together this post, Billy Joel’s song toys with my memory. Why not? Here, for your enjoyment, is one of my favorite artists:
We could have gone all the way to the Great Wall of China if you’d only had a little more faith in me
When I saw the topic of this Sunday’s Post, I wondered if I should go out and find someone working; however, I remembered I had shot quite a few images of people at work during my stay in China last summer.
I find it interesting that I still have not gotten comfortable taking similar pictures here in my own city and country. I guess there’s something about being a tourist that gives me (in my mind) license to shoot just about anything.
And now, I’m off to the gym before returning to my work, prepping my lessons for the week. I hope you all have a satisfying and productive work week.
Laoshan Moutain near Qingdau: The aroma of her food was enticing, but I passed on it. Now I wish I’d indulged.
Beijing: I think he has a difficult job.
Beijing: This soldier stands guard at the Forbidden City. He looks so young and alone.
Beijing: He makes beautiful china in the Hutong area; unfortunately, I could not afford any of the beautiful pieces.
Beijing: She cooked my delicious meal when I dined in a private residence in the Hutong area.
Qingdau: She was working so hard to sell her ears of corn.
Beijing: My tour guide through the Forbidden City…I’d been in the country only two days and was still afraid that I’d get lost, but he made sure that I was safe. His English is nearly flawless and his talks were informative and interesting.
Beijing: Olympic village, just outside of the Bird’s Nest, on his way to another job.
Feicheng: Diane, one of the participants in my workshop, teaching her students as they prepare for their English exams.
Feicheng: I understand that this is a nightly event in the city where I worked. I walked around the city only twice in the 4 weeks I worked there; I spent my evenings in the hotel, usually preparing the next day’s lesson. This summer, I vow to experience more of the local life.
Shanghai: I bought some of his bread and was surprised that it tasted salty, and not sweet like the Indian Fry Bread that is sold in Arizona.
I was enchanted by the hutongs of Old Beijing. These narrow alleyways/streets are created by courtyards (siheyuan) that house several families (nine where I visited). Walls of the courtyards add privacy and keep out evil spirits who are unable to turn corners. Hutong is a Hun word meaning “water well” The story is that during the Hun occupation, as they took their cattle down the narrow alleys for water each morning, the Chinese asked where they were going. They responded “to the hutong.” The Chinese, misinterpreting, took that to mean the narrow streets.
Just passing the time in the Hutong
When I was in Beijing, I chose the Mutianyu Great Wall over the Badaling Great Wall because it was advertised as less crowded. I had seen incredible shots of endless vistas revealing the immense structure snaking across the mountain ridges and looked forward to capturing similar images.
However, it was not to be as a fierce storm set upon us … actually, when I was alone on top of the wall. For a few minutes, when I was standing at a juncture, with the rain falling in sheets and lightning painting the sky much too close for my comfort, I did not know which way to turn. I had moments of true concern (fear?) thinking of the tour van leaving at the scheduled time while I wandered in the pelting rain on top of the mountain.
While I was on the Great Wall, the mist enveloping the mountain soon turned to heavy rain, thunder, and lightning…gifting me with a fantastic display of Nature’s power and beauty.
The narrow, steep steps posed a slippery challenge in the rain.
The Great Wall at Mutianyu was rebuilt during the Ming dynasty in the 16th Century upon the foundations of the wall originally built during the Northern Qi Dynasty (AD 500-77).
I toured the ancient sites of Beijing by myself and had a great time. Click the image to see my memories of my first day in Beijing.
View of Beijing from Temple of Heaven