Friday 20 May Beijing – Great Wall

This morning after a lovely buffet breakfast, our coach picked us about at 8.00am and we headed north through the peak-hour traffic and went through the worst traffic jam we have ever seen. We eventually made our way to the Government-owned Jade Showroom on the outskirts of Beijing. Jade is very culturally significant to the Chinese as it is believed to be a link between both the physical and the spiritual world and is the only material that completely captures both the yin and yang qualities of Heaven and Earth, earning it the name, The Stone of Heaven.

We were met by a young, handsome, English-speaking Chinese representative, called Eric, who showed us around. Inside the main entrance, we saw an amazing Jade Feng-shui ball, made out of one solid piece of Jade. We saw some people in a workshop, which was for demonstration purposes only – the actual workshop is in another building – they were carving and polishing the Jade. We saw a huge Dragon Boat, which is the biggest piece in the Showroom and this masterpiece took 3 years to make and costs 385,000 yuan, (which is just under $100,000) but Eric said if we would like to buy it, they would ship it to us for free. Then Eric took us into the showroom and showed us the different types and colours of Jade – we always thought Jade is green, but there are different shades of green as well as other types/colours. He showed us Xiuyan Jade, the traditional Jade; Agate Stone, which is red inside and very rare; and Jadeite, which is the hardest Jade – the colour changes with heat. He also showed us the Beijing Olympic medals that all had Jade on the back of them. Then he took us into a huge showroom and showed us two different “jade” bangles and asked us how we could tell the difference between the real one and a fake one – you hold them up to the light and the real one is cloudy and different shapes in it. We were then given free time to look around the huge showroom, where at least a dozen girls were waiting to help us and suggest what we should purchase. Needless to say, we did buy a couple of things, and Richard bought Sandy a beautiful pendant.

From there we continued our journey towards the Great Wall of China, passing the Yen Mountains, and the Juyongguan Section as well as the Shuiguan Section of the Great Wall of China, and finally to the Badaling Section that we would be climbing.

The Great Wall of China, which winds its way from the Yellow Sea up into the Gobi Desert for approximately 6,700 kilometres, is the world’s longest man-made structure. A barrier to persistent invaders from the north, it was also a dividing line between settled agriculture on the plain and nomadic life in the mountains. It is built of brick and stone and filled with earth as well as the bodies of conscripted labourers who died while building it. Much of it is in disrepair, but several sections have been reconstructed near Beijing

The Badaling section was built in 1504 during the Ming Dynasty, along with a military outpost reflecting the location’s strategic importance. The highest point of Badaling is Belbalou, which is approximately 1,015 metres above sea level. This section of the Wall is 7.6 kilometres long, 7.8 metres tall and some sections of it are 5.7 metres wide, but many sections are much narrower. There are 30 watchtowers – 12 north and 18 south towers.

Our bus dropped us off in the parking area and we walked up a paved pathway to the entrance of the part of the Badaling section that we would be climbing. We walked along an unrestored and rarely visited stretch of this section and we were all delighted that our group was the only ones there, so we had it all to ourselves. We had expected to be sharing this section of the Great Wall with hundreds of other people. We climbed up approximately 410 stone steps that had varying tread width and height. This was done deliberately to slow any potential invaders, and it certainly slowed us down. Some steps were only half a foot-length wide and we needed to walk up them very carefully. Most sections had handrails installed (for visitors) as the wall at the edge of the steps was either very low or non-existent. We climbed up to two of the watchtowers, which gave us amazing views of other sections of the wall and the valley below. When we first got there, the two of us headed off straight away and were delighted to be the first ones to reach both of the watchtowers, which meant that we had photos without anyone in them. When we reached the 2nd watchtower, we waited for the others who had made that trek (many of the group didn’t make the 2nd watchtower) and we all took photos of each, congratulating each other on making it!! As we stood at the top of this section of the Great Wall, we were fascinated by the magnitude and sheer size of this structure and so proud of ourselves!!
After spending a couple of hours on the Great Wall, we made our way carefully back down the 410 stone steps to an area that had been set up for our chef-prepared buffet lunch. Tables, with white tablecloths and chairs with white chair covers and floral arrangements in the middle of the tables awaited us. We sat out in the fresh air and had a delicious lunch, with beer, wine and soft drink, looking up at this section of the Great Wall, marveling at the complexity of the structure and appreciating how very fortunate we are to have had this experience!!

We tore ourselves away from the Great Wall and boarded our coach for our 2 hour journey back into the city, the last hour of which was in bumper to bumper traffic. We arrived back at the hotel at 4.00pm, after a wonderful day.

Our dinner tonight in the hotel was an authentic Peking Duck banquet with all of the traditional accompaniments, as well as several other Chinese dishes. We are becoming quite adept at using chopsticks although we did use forks for the birthday cake of one of our group, Russell. We had 10 people at the table tonight and we have been finding that the conversation and interaction has been amazing for people who have only known each other for a short time. We have some really good storytellers in our group, so we do spend a lot of time laughing, and one story seems to lead to the next. A lovely end to a perfect day in Beijing.

4 Responses to “Friday 20 May Beijing – Great Wall”

  1. Katharine says:

    Great effort with the stairs!

  2. Maria Hughes says:

    I agree Katharine – would have left Uncle Dennis and me behind methinks 🙂

  3. sandy says:

    Thanks Katharine. We were proud of ourselves!!!

  4. sandy says:

    Thanks Sis. xo

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