Saturday, October 24, 2015

Baiyangyu Great Wall

If you’d like to have a weekend hike on a wide and overgrown section of the Great Wall around Beijing, Baiyangyu Great Wall is highly recommended. This section of the Wall is located about 250km northeast of Beijing. It is under the administration of Dacuizhuang Town of Qian’an County in Tangshan City, Hebei Province. “Baiyangyu” literally means “White Sheep Valley”. There used to be a grand water pass of the Great Wall bridging the valley which now still divides the Baiyangyu Great Wall into two sections – East and West. The two sections of Bauyangyu Great wall are a 4552m-long fairly well preserved wall with 21 guide-towers. Baiyangyu Great Wall was originally built in Northen Qi Dynasty (550-577) and reinforced in Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) by the builders and army led by Qi Juguang.

Also known as Baiyanggu, Baiyangyu is located on the southern ridge of the Yanshan Mountains, 20 km north of Qian’an City. The Baiyangyu Great Wall stretches on for seven km in the west. This section contains a water gate, blockhouse, beacon tower, watchtower, wall, ramp and trench, making it the epitome of the entire Great Wall as an ancient military defense system. A river named Baiyang runs from north to south through the pass. Two gates were built across the river for more effective defense, the first one being designed for attack, and the second for defense. Such a design is rarely seen elsewhere on the Great Wall of China, and it is a pity that it has not survived. Of the watchtower on the east bank of the river, only the foundation remains. There are 36 watchtowers on the Baiyangyu Great Wall, most of which are well preserved. The one named Shenwei Tower, to the west of the destroyed water gates, is unique in its design. Unlike other watchtowers built on top of the wall, it was built and attached to the outer wall. It is built of gray bricks and lime mortar, and has an “arrow window”-embrasure for shooting arrows at the center of the outer wall, which also serves for ventilation and natural lighting.

Below the “arrow window” are two embrasures designed specifically for throwing down rocks at enemies approaching the tower. Likewise, the eastern and western walls each have an “arrow window” and two embrasures through which large rocks could be discharged upon the enemy. The tower is oblong in plan, and has a barrel vault top. On the lintel of the gate is a horizontal stone panel bearing the three characters Shen Wei Lou (Shenwei Tower) and the words “Inscribed By Mobile Corps Commander Zhang Shizhang” and “Erected In The Midsummer Of the Bingshen Year Of The Wanli Regin Period (1593). Opposite the arched gateway is a screen all in which a stone tablet bearing a record of events is laid. This tower, though looking like a wooden structure, uses neither tiles nor timber, except for wood in its gates and windows.

To the east of Shenwei Tower is a watchtower with a timber-beam frame, which is a unique example among watchtowers of brick barrel-vault construction. In addition, there are many built-in closets in the walls inside the tower, which is extremely rare. When the Baiyangyu Great Wall was first built in with rocks in the Northern  Qi Dynasty (550-577), the wall was only three meters in width. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Qi Jiguang reinforced the wall, facing some strategically important with bricks, and widening it up by up to six meters. Normally located far from the pass, and easy to defend but difficult to attack, the fortifications were built of rocks. One case in point is the wall section between Fangzilou and Kengzilou, which was built by stacking rocks, not a single brick being used even in the inner wall and the outer embrasured battlements. It is still in good condition even after more than 400 years.

The eastern section of the Baiyangyu Great Wall was faced with bricks. On the inner side of the wall two boundary tablets were inlaid, bearing inscriptions marking the boundary between the Yanhe Route and the Taiping Route under the jurisdiction of the Ji Defense Command, each taking charge of the construction, renovation, and defense of the Great Wall section within its own territory.  Tablets were erected to mark the boundaries of Routes in the course of constructing the Great Wall.
To the west of the two boundary tablets at Baiyangyu, the base of the wall and the watchtowers were built with limestone, while to the east of the boundary tablets, the base of the 2.1-km-long wall and watchtowers was built with marble. The grayish-white and purplish-red colors look quite striking, and are another unique site along the Great Wall.

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