From Beijing, Christopher, Meg, and Katie took a tour to see and hike the Great Wall of China. The sections we saw were Mutianyu and Jiankou. The wall was built over multiple millenia, to protect China from horse-riding invaders from the Mongolian steppe, including Huns and Mongolians.
The wall is close to Beijing because Beijing itself was used as a capital to keep the imperial forces close to the border (as opposed to the more southern Chinese heartland), so they would be ready to guard the northern border. Nevertheless, several Chinese dynasties were founded by invaders, including the Yuan and Qing, Mongolians and Manchurians, respectively.
We were transported to a small town near the wall, and we hiked up to the wall itself. Naturally, the wall runs on the ridge of the hills in the area, so it was a good hike up to the wall.
The first section of the wall was the Jiankou section, starting a Zhengbeilou Tower. This part of the wall is in a damaged state; most of the wall sections itself is intact, though some of the towers have some walls that are starting to collapse.
The wall has bushes and small trees growing on top of it, so the top is covered except for a narrow path that weaves between the flora.
The hike here involved a very steep upward section to the top of a hill, followed by a steep descent that made us feel like mountain goats. The photo below is of us making the decent while the second photo is of the section of wall we decended in the first photo. The wall itself is made of dolomite. This section was built during the Ming dynasty and has not been restored since.
Mutianyu has been restored, so we could see just what the wall would have looked like when it was in use. Mutianyu was originally built during the Northin Qi dynasty (one of the Northern & Southern Dynasties during the mid-first millenium), but was restored during the Ming. The original wall was mainly rammed earth, but during the Ming the wall as we now know it was constructed. It is constructed from granite as a base, with brick upper layers.
Eventually we reached a cablecar that took us down to a resort/village, where we were picked up. We had a meal at a local restaurant, and went back to Beijing. We just missed being rained on! It was really great to see such an important part of histostory, but it was an exhausting hike! We were especially happy that we were able to see two sections of the wall, original and restored.