Can you name 1 notable Chinese landmark?
My response would be The Great Wall.
How would you respond?
On our second day in Beijing, we had the unforgettable experience of climbing up a small portion of the Juyongguan or Juyong Pass. It is one of the three greatest mountain passes of The Great Wall of China. This area is located in the Jundu Mountains and part of the Taihang Mountains.
To reach this magnificent structure, we traveled approximately 40 miles from our Beijing hotel. In 1987, UNESCO designated The Great Wall as a World Heritage site. According to the History.com website it is the only manmade structure that can be seen from the moon.
Busloads of people approached the entrance. It was still early in the morning, but the sun’s rays penetrated through the thin layers of pollution. We were lucky. Just a few days before, a sandstorm had driven the thick polluted air elsewhere. Had this not occurred, we were told that our pictures would have been overshadowed by murky air.
Walking up the first portion was a tedious process. The stone stairs had inconsistent risers that could not be predicted. Some were exceptionally steep for anyone who had a short stature. Due to the early crowds who were trying to avoid the oppressive afternoon heat, there was minimal space between the people. One’s pace became dependent upon the person directly in front of you.
As we climbed further, the crowds started to dissipate and the age of the people also decreased. Signs warned people to be aware of their health situation.
I knew that it would not be easy, but I didn’t realize how invigorating it would be. People who wore athletic shoes or hiking boots had a definite advantage. I could never have climbed in sandals.
At designated points, there were small structures that provided shade and a great place to stop to drink our bottled water. I would not recommend this adventure without ample water.
At each new vantage point, we could see why the Juyongguan Pass has a notable history as a military stronghold. According to a sign, primitive fortifications were built during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BCE) and the Warring States Period (476-221 BCE). The Yan State kept it as a guarded passage called the Juyong Stronghold. Renovations were made subsequent to the erection of these earlier barriers. The Great Wall that is still standing today was planned by General Xu Da and Chang Yuchon in 1368 (Ming Dynasty). It was designed to protect the border from the Mongolian tribe. With the rise and the fall of different dynasties, the wall’s function and ownership fluctuated.
Despite its original purpose, The Great Wall did not completely prevent enemies from entering China. Nevertheless, its awesome and intimidating appearance became a psychological barrier between China and everyone else.
After the late Qing Dynasty, the wall was rarely used and needed extensive maintenance. In 1992 efforts were made to restore this impressive structure to its original glory. Now people can learn more about Chinese history and enjoy the region’s natural beauty.
To preserve its integrity, the wall has been renovated many times. The most recent work was completed in the latter part of the 20th century. Despite these renovations, the wall still has numerous imperfections. All climbers need to remain alert. Missing parts of steps and uneven surfaces are a common occurrence. I don’t know how one of our fellow passengers who was legally blind conquered the feat of successfully climbing the steep and unpredictable stairs.
Sandra Bornstein is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. It is available on Amazon. Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons. The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and received an Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.