Simatai Great Wall
The Simatai section of the Great Wall of China is located approximately 120 kilometers northeast of Beijing. It is about a two and a half hour ride on a tour bus. Most visitors arrive on tour buses, since the tour companies handle all of the details and the schedule. The Simatai Great Wall section closed in June, 2010, but it may open October 1, 2012.
This section was built from 550-577 during the Northern Qi Dynasty and rebuilt in the Ming Dynasty. The Ming Dynasty spanned the years 1368-1644, and this part of the wall was redone in the Hongwu years by General Qi Jiguang. It is about three and a half miles long or 5.4 kilometers.
History and Description
There are 35 beacon towers in this short stretch of the Great Wall. Most are 100-200 meters apart, which is 328-656 feet, and two of them are only 44 meters apart. The eastern side of the Simatai Great Wall is steep and treacherous, so more towers were built for better safety and security. Somehow, the undaunted Chinese army managed to build the wall and many towers on some of the highest, most rugged cliffs in China. The highest point is 1,000 meters in elevation or 3,281 feet.
Goats were loaded down with bricks and herded up the mountain so that the Simatai section of the Great Wall could be completed. Obviously, "can't" was not in their vocabulary even several centuries before pertinent technology could ease the way. Simatai is so significant that a Great Wall specialist, Professor Luo Zhewen, said, "The Great Wall is the best of the Chinese buildings, and Simatai is the best of the Great Wall."
Importance of Simatai
One reason Simatai is so important is because it is the location of the Gubeiko pass in the eastern part of the wall. When it was constructed, there was but one pass for people and animals and all of their goods. The fierce, eastern side of the Simatai Great Wall has 15 towers, in spite of the scaling challenges.
The western side has 20 towers and a gentler terrain. The east and west sides of this area of the wall are separated by Mandarin Duck Lake which is fed by two springs. The east side spring is cold, and the west side spring is warm, so the lake does not ice up in the winter. Tourists can fish, boat and swim on the lake if they are not engaged in climbing the wall.
A hanging bridge, suspended over the lake and valley, connects the two sides, so that tourists do not have to swim or boat across. A hotel, inn and youth hostel sit at one end of the lake, and dining is available in each one.
Local farmers also sell stewed fish, a favorite local dish, at nearby farm houses.
Tower 12 is the last tower before the closed off section of the Simatai great wall. The guard prevents people from going to the dangerous parts of the trail beyond it. Towers 13, 14 and 15 are connected by a rough, eroded walk that is only one-person wide in places. The Heavenly Ladder, the trail to Tower 14, is an 80 degree slope and unsafe for tourist travel.
The Fairy Tower, Tower 15, has arched doors with twin lotus flowers sculpted into the stone. It is thought to be the most beautiful tower of all. The Sky Bridge is the narrow trail that connects Tower 15 to Tower 16, the Watching Beijing Tower. It has been called "the highest cultural relic in Beijing." On clear nights, tourists can see the lights of Beijing from this highest summit.
The bricks in the wall here are stamped with the date they were made and the code numbers of the armies that made them in the years of the Ming Dynasty! It is living history