Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Jingshanling The Section To See

Nine out of ten visitors to the Great Wall of China would have either visited the section at Badaling or Mutianyu. Why? Because, these are the two most promoted sections both by the tourism board as well as tour agencies in China.

I am not saying that these two sections are not Great Wall but I am a firm believer that these two sections do not portray the Great Wall as she truly was and is. Both Badaling and Mutianyu has gone through very thorough and massive reconstruction over the years and heavily promoted and hence commercialised. Given any time of the year, the walls are crowded with tourists, both local and foreigners besides souvenirs peddlers trying to make a quick sale and hefty profit.

Trying to take a picture here without people constantly getting into your frame requires you to walk a great distance along the wall to escape the crowd and even so, one still could not get that feel of an authentic wall with scars, so to speak of what she has gone through hundred of years, battled by the harsh summers, springs, autumns and bitter winters.

The conditions of the reconstructed sections at Badaling and Mutianyu are so immaculate that it seemed unreal. I have been to Mutianyu twice but never to Badaling and I don’t think I will want to make a trip there after having been to one of the best section of the Wall at JINGSHANLING!

The Great Wall of which construction started over 2000 years ago stretches 6,700 km or 4,160 miles that starts from Shanhaiguan in the east to as far as Lop Nur in the west. As the wall snakes over the vastly different terrains on this big continent, along sharp ridges and deep valleys, lush green forest or dry deserts, the many sections of the wall presents very different views and perspectives. Today, some sections have completely crumbled while some have been overgrown with thick undergrowth. There are sections which have been submerged in lakes and flooded valleys while at Shanhaiguan, the wall juts and finally ends in the sea.

But if you look at the many beautiful and amazing pictures of the Great Wall, there is a great possibility that that section is the section near Jingshanling and Simatai, two sections of the wall with both restored walls as well as the `wild’ walls which have been left untouched since.

I accidentally stumbled upon the Jingshanling section during last year winter when I could not get to the Wuling Mountains as originally intended. My driver suggested that I visit Jingshanling instead since we are already near the vicinity. I have absolutely no regrets.

Jingshanling is located approximately 140 km northeast of Beijing and connects Simatai on the east and Gubeikou in the west, making it one of the most interesting and most popular hiking trails.

My first visit during winter was everything I had asked and hoped for to photograph the Great Wall. The Great Wall was virtually deserted and there were still snow covering the wall and the barren slopes. Jingshanling was also interesting because one could see the wall `snaking’ along the ridges as far as the eyes could see.

I was there again in April this year as winter passed by and spring arrived. I had the opportunity to venture further among the unreconstructed portion of the wall. Again, towards the evening, the wall was pretty deserted and I had the opportunity to look at her from different angles and experiencing her in her natural non restored state and that experience was simply amazing and priceless. As the evening set in, a deep sense of serenity descended upon the wall. Closing my eyes for a moment, I took a deep breath. When I reopened my eyes, I felt as if I have been transported back in time, several hundred of years back. I stood there, scanning the hills, watching the wall snakes on top of the sharp ridges and down deep valleys. There was this silence that was somewhat peaceful and comforting. As far as my eyes could see, I saw the great wall and the silhouette of her watch towers in the distance.

This is the Great Wall experience that I was yearning for and I found it at Jingshanling. I have a dream and that is to hike from Gubeikou, through Jingshanling to Simatai, reputed to be the best stretch to experience the wall in all her natural splendor and to sleep on one of her watch towers beneath the stars and that I hope to achieve soon before I leave Beijing.

So, if you are ever thinking of visiting the Great Wall, instead of just following the recommendation of your tour agency to drop by Badaling where you would be totally disappointed, jostling with hundreds if not thousands of tourists or even Mutianyu, which is slightly better, give the section of Jingshanling a serious consideration. I promised you that she will leave a lasting impression of a lifetime.


  1. This is a great article.. shall consider this when I go Great Wall for the second time next time.. hope this time will be a better trip for me as I went to china twice and both the trip i wasn't feeling well.. so if the 3rd trip to China i still feel unwell, I guess I've no fate with China.. haha..

  2. amazing journey you had here ^^

  3. wow!!!!ur pictures are cool!!mind to share wat lens u use? =)

    -from malaysia

  4. Thanks for this briiliant post and all the lovely pics--Your pictures are amazing. Just looking at those pictures make me want to climb the Great Wall of China now. I also found a great blog of Jinshanling travel tips, I’d love to share it here with you and for future travelers.