China #6 Section 1 Walk on the Wall (10/09/2015)

This Walk on the Wall is About Helping Others to Help Themselves

http://www.everydayhero.com.au/event/50kmFor50Years

By now our team of seventeen had learned each other’s names, seen a little of Beijing and rested after the long flight from Australia. But the time had come to begin the task of testing ourselves on a tough five day walk along the Great Wall of China in our bid to raise funds to help students who are doing it tough in life while they study for their degree. 

So let the walk begin.

Entrance Sign DSC00364 © DY of jtdytravels

Entrance Sign DSC00364 © DY of jtdytravels

The Great Wall of China is 21,196 km in length. Yes! Twenty-one thousand one hundred and ninety-six kilometres (21,196km; or 13,170mi). That’s the precise total length of the Great Wall, the whole of which was included as a World Heritage Site in 1987. But, yes, you’re right. We weren’t going to attempt to walk all of that! In fact, this trek would cover approximately 50 km of the Wall. And then there were more kilometres to be walked up and down hills just to get onto and off the wall each day. We’d been warned that the parts of the Wall that we were to walk are not for the faint hearted; constant ups and downs; many, many steps of varying sizes and steepness of incline. Some restored parts; others parts we would find to be very rough.

We began our walk at the Taipingzhai Gate, part of the ‘Huangyaguan Great Wall’, located in a scenic but precipitous mountain area 120km from Beijing. This section of the Wall is 42 km (26 miles) long; constructed along a mountain ridge at an altitude of about 736 m (2,415 ft). It’s part of, but really just a fraction of, the 8,850 km (5,500 mi) of the wall that was built during the Ming dynasty(1368–1644). Everything about the wall is BIG.

DSC00368 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00368 © DY of jtdytravels

The very first set of steps tested our fitness. I, for one, was glad that I had trained hard.

Until 1987, much of the wall here was in a bad state of repair. However, from 1984 – 1987, the people of the nearby city of Tianjin repaired just over 3 km of the main wall. This was the section of the wall we traversed for this first day of our wall trek. This was to ‘break us into’ wall walking. It’s one thing to train on tracks and on roads, but these are steep steps!

DSC00366 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00366 © DY of jtdytravels

Scott celebrates making it to the watch tower at the top of the first set of steps.

This section of the Wall was begun during the Northern Qi Dynasty (550 – 557), that’s over 1,400 years ago.  In those days the wall was mainly built from locally sourced earth, stones and wood.  Such a wall could withstand attack by simple weapons like swords, spears and bows. However, over the years, warfare changed and by the time of the Ming Dynasty, (1368- 1644), gunpowder had become available. From then on methods of warfare changed radically. Soldiers began to use cannons and muskets. It became more and more obvious that a much more solid wall was needed.

DSC00361 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00361 © DY of jtdytravels

Statue of Qi Jiguang

In 1558, the chief commanding officer of the area’s garrison, Qi Jiguang, was charged with the task of repairing the wall with stone and bricks. He had six extra watch towers built which vary in style from square to round, and from solid to hollow; some inside the wall, others outside. The work was done by manual labour and many lives were lost.

Despite the loss of life and the extremely hard work in this difficult terrain, the local people felt so indebted to Commander Qi Jiguang for his great contribution to the peace and stability of the area, that they honoured him with an impressive statue.  I believe that this 8.5m statue is a newer statue placed at the start of this section of the wall, maybe at the completion of the reconstruction in the 1980s.

Qi Jiguang was revered not just a wall builder. In 1553, at the age of 26, before he started the wall reconstruction, he was given the task to “punish the bandits and guard the people”. In effect that meant taking on the “Japanese” pirates which were attacking China’s east coast. This part of the wall is not far from the coast.  A Biography of Qi Jiguang states that:

“When he started, the tide was against him for the local troops were inadequately manned, poorly trained and easily bested by the trained and armed pirates… (But) Qi lead his troops to victories even in situations where he was outnumbered. In the next ten years he kept the pressure up agains the pirates… He (eventually) defeated forces that had earlier decimated Chinese fighters by developing four innovations: he upgraded his equipment; began vigorous and organized troop training; strengthened his defensive tactics and trained for organized and concentrated manuevers.”

(http://www.plumpub.com/info/Bios/bio qijiguang.htm)

Apparently, Qi’s wife assisted in some of those manoeuvres! Her story is part of the book “Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women: Tang Through Ming, 618 – 1644” by Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles and M.E. Sharpe published in English in March 2014 (Amazon)

DSC00370 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00370 © DY of jtdytravels

Not all the remade sections were restored to the same degree. A bit tricky.

DSC00372 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00372 © DY of jtdytravels

” Stop and catch your breath” moments gave us time to enjoy the scenery.

DSC00369 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00369 © DY of jtdytravels

And, as usual, I was on the lookout for flowering plants.

DSC00373 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00373 © DY of jtdytravels

We were promised that this section was much easier than the rougher sections we would come to later in the week. But it was still not ‘a walk in the park’! It was still very much up and down hundreds of steps, following the ridge line. We were learning first hand that a trek on the Wall is not for the unfit or for the fainthearted! And this was just the first day.

DSC00374 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00374 © DY of jtdytravels

Signs along the way exhorted us to be careful and not to climb on the wall.

DSC00375 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00375 © DY of jtdytravels

It was strange to find ourselves walking on this historic Wall on our own.

We’d thankfully left the tourist hordes behind in Beijing.

And that was good… very good.

.

DSC00376 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00376 © DY of jtdytravels

By the time this photo was taken it was 19:33.

Almost time to get off the wall and climb down to the waiting bus.

It would be good to find a feed and a bed for the night.

More anon.

David

This Walk on the Wall is About Helping Others to Help Themselves

Thank you to all those who have already made a donation.

If you would like to help us to help others, our thanks to you also.

http://www.everydayhero.com.au/event/50kmFor50Years

{Click on “Sponsor a Friend” under the photo of the great wall

NB: Type in David to get to my donation page.}

If you would like to send this website on to others, please do so.

www.dymusings.com

All photographs copyright © David Young  of  jtdytravels

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