Monday, November 30, 2015

Mutianyu Great Wall Private Tour, Beijing

We will pick you up from your hotel at 8:00 am, or if you prefer, we can pick you up later in the day at 12:00 pm or at 2:00 pm (Your choice). We will then drive to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall.

Mutianyu is located 60 kms (37 miles) northeast of Beijing in Huairou County. As one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall, the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs. First built in the mid-6th century during the Northern Qi, Mutianyu Great Wall is older than the Badaling section of the Great Wall. In the Ming dynasty, under the supervision of General Xu Da, construction of the present wall began on the foundation of the wall of Northern Qi. In 1404, a pass was built in the wall. In 1569, the Mutianyu Great Wall was rebuilt and till today most parts of it are well preserved.

Compared with other sections of Great Wall, the Mutianyu Great Wall possesses unique characteristics in its construction. Watchtowers are densely placed along this section of the Great Wall - 22 watchtowers on this 2,250-meter-long stretch. Both the outer and inner parapets are crenellated with merlots, so that shots could be fired at the enemy on both sides - a feature very rare on other parts of the Great Wall. The Mutianyu Pass consists of 3 watchtowers, one big in the center and two smaller on both sides. Standing on the same terrace, the three watchtowers are connected to each other inside and compose a rarely seen structure among all sections of Great Wall. This section of the Great Wall has seen its fair share if important visitors, from world leaders (including former U.S. President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister John Major), to sports clubs (the NBA's Houston Rockets).

While Mutianyu does get its fair share of visitors, it does not get as packed as Badaling, allowing you to have a peaceful time exploring the wall. After walking around on Mutianyu, you have the option of coming down via walking, taking a cable car, or taking a toboggan ride (lots of fun and highly recommended!). After meeting our car in the parking lot, we will transfer you back directly to your hotel.

With most Great Wall tour companies, they think it's enough to just drive you to the Great Wall, drop you off, and take you back to your hotel. That's where we go the extra mile. In addition to providing transportation, we will personally guide you while on the Great Wall. While there your personal guide will provide you with knowledge and history of the Great Wall along with some fun anecdotes and other stories that will only enhance your Great Wall experience. When you choose Great Wall Adventure Club, you are choosing a fully immersive and interactive Great Wall experience, one that is more than simply a "hike". In addition, your personal guide will ensure that your tour is not only fun and informative, but safe as well.

For those business travelers or those with limited time available, this is the best way to get your Great Wall fix. While a half-day event it will still allow you plenty of time on the Great Wall (about two hours). We'll be glad to customize this tour for your needs (for example, drop you off at train station, airport, a conference venue, etc.*)

This tour comes recommended by Fodor's in their most recent China travel guide and USA Today's "Travel Guide for the Great Wall at Mutianyu in China."

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Sunday, November 29, 2015


Like the big building projects of today, the Great Wall of China did not come cheap! While hiking the Great Wall try to put yourself in the mind frame of those budgeting and planning the construction of what may be man’s greatest achievement in engineering. 

The Great Wall construction funds in all ages were mainly from government financial allocations. The funds used in The Great Wall construction and frontier defense took up a big part of the national economy. The Great Wall was mainly for armament, and belonged to the national defense system. The gigantic engineering and guard afterward involved large amounts of manpower, material and financial resources. The input sometimes was even unbearable to the national financial capability, and became a heavy burden of the people. Therefore, the already deep social conflicts escalated. In different dynasties and different stages of a dynasty, requirements for the quantity and quality of The Great Wall construction would differ according to the aim and situation at the time, hence differences in the financial input. The Qin and Han dynasties, especially the early stages of the two dynasties, witnessed the summit of The Great Wall construction and huge financial input that was mainly collected from the land tax and the poll tax. During Emperor Wu’s regime during the Han Dynasty, for raising funds for the external troop dispatch, The Great Wall construction and the frontier reinforcement, national monopolization on salt, iron and alcohol was implemented. Later, because of civil wars and intrusions kept enlarging and financial consumption increasing, normal incomes were unable to make ends meet. Therefore, the rulers began to sell official rankings and titular honors in to the public and at the same time carried out “the money atonement for crime” policy. Consequently, from the end of the Western Han Dynasty to the Eastern Han Dynasty, the national finance was in the red and serious social economic depression began.

In the historical records of the Ming Dynasty, there are many records of The Great Wall garrison ministers requesting construction funds from the court. In Memoir of Emperor Shi Zhong of the Ming Dynasty there are lines about Governor and Assistant Minister of Xuanfu, Datong of Shanxi Province Weng Wanda requesting a budget in a memorial presented to the throne in lunar February, the 25th year of the Jia Jing Period. The lines read, “The Great Wall needs extending for about 130 li…and adding a side wall...The total funds will amount to 290,000 liang gold.” The Memoir also records that in lunar July of the year Weng Wanda and other officials organized constructions of side walls of 138 li (69 km) 7 castles and 154 fortresses in Tiancheng, Yanghe and Kaishankou in Donglu of Datong; they also supervised construction of the side walls of 64 li (32km), 10 watch towers and cliff and slop cutting of 50 li (25 km) in Xianghe, Ximalin, Zhangjiakou in Xili of Xuanfu; the whole engineering lasted for 50 some days, and saved 90,000 liang gold compared with that of the former schedule. Funds for The Great Wall construction after the Qin and Han dynasties were mainly from the land tax and income tax. In the Ming Dynasty an additional land tax began to be collected. It was an addition to the normal tax, and started from the Zheng De Period of Emperor Wu Zong of the Ming Dynasty. It was large or small from time to time, but the overall tendency was ascending. At the end of the Ming Dynasty, taxes of various kinds kept increasing due to the need for military expenditure. The abuse of additional land tax resulted in the collapse of the social economy. Army subsidies for those who served in the frontier, suppressed enemies and did military exercises eventually resulted in an increase in the additional land tax for over 20% and 16,000 thousand liang silver nationwide, which increased more than half of that in earlier times. Also, with many corrupt local officials trying to accumulate wealth by unfair means, peasants could not bear any longer and rebelled on a large scale, and the Ming Dynasty was finally overthrown.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015


Passes and fortresses made up the backbone of The Great Wall’s strategic importance, and you’re sure to see many of them while on your Great Wall tour. Read about the vital importance they played in The Great Wall’s defense.

Passes along The Great Wall were the most important strongholds for stationing troops, and were built in the places of strategic importance, hence the saying of “a man on guard is more than ten thousand men”. Passes were generally built on lofty and precipitous peaks where mountain mouths could be easily blocked. Some passes were built in deep valleys and clutched the strategic gorge. Only by setting passes in strategic places could the defender successfully fight against the enemy of larger quantity. Most passes of The Great Wall had a pass city. Passes and pass cities of relative large scale were the backbone strategic strongholds in The Great Wall defense system. When The Great Wall was partially broken through, passes stubbornly kept by the defender would still bluff off the enemy. The passes and pass cities of the Ming Great Wall were mature in design, construction and defense functions. Thousands of passes and fortresses were built along the Ming Great Wall of more than 7,000 km, such as Fushunguan, Shanhaiguan, Gubeikou, Huang’aiguan, Shangjiguan, and Jiayuguan. For strengthening the Capital’s defense, the famous “three inner passes” and “three outer passes” were built along The Great Wall inside and outside the capital city and its environs. The three inner passes are Juyongguan, Zijingguan and Daomaguan. The three outer passes are Pianguan, Ningwuguan and Yanmenguan. Pass cities of The Great Wall passes are mainly composed of square and polygon ramparts and city gates, city towers, city platforms and urn cities, Relative big pass cities in the plain still had moats and net cities (circular walls) around them. Around the extremely important passes there would be accessory fortresses serving for a peripheral battlefield. The size of a pass city was decided by concrete situations. Most of the pass cities could hold a large number of troops, sufficient weapons, food provisions and military resources. Therefore, the pass cities could directly support defensive combats within their controlling area along The Great Wall. 

Ramparts: Ramparts of pass cities are strong. Ramparts inside and outside the pass cities in northeast China and northern China were generally built with grey bricks or slabs outside and rammed loess inside. The high and strong rampart not only could effectively hold back the enemy’s attack, but also could scare them off. On the rampart of the pass city there were built cavalry way and ladder access for cavalry and infantry.

City gates: City gates were a passage for passing in an out of a pass. During peacetime they could be accessible according to administrative provisions. During wartime, they would become an exit for fighting back. In the early stage, city gates were mainly made of a wooden lintel. After the Yuan Dynasty they were made of bricks or block stones, called quanmen (arched doors). Above the gates opening there was generally inlaid a stone board, on which the title of the pass city of pass gates was carved out. The massive wooden gates were covered with sheet iron and beset with huge nails. On the back latches and lock rings were installed.

City towers: City towers consist of a city gate tower and angle turrets on the rampart. The majestic city tower was a military observing and command center, and a stronghold in battle. Most of the city gate towers are of wooden structure or brick-timber construction with two or three floors. The overhanging gable roof and gable and hip roof were mainly used to meet the need of the combat and aesthetic taste.

Water passes: When traversing brooks and river valleys, The Great Wall could not block off the current, and neither could it weaken the defense. Therefore, water passes of various structures emerged. Small water passes are culverts under the rampart. Big ones are much complicated. The Jiumenkou Great Wall, for example, has the Jiumen City bBridge over the Jiujiang River.
Urn cities: The urn city is a small town outside the city gate. Its wall is as high as the rampart. Its shape is circle or square, with square in the majority. There is a saying of “to catch a turtle in an urn” and the town is like an urn, hence the name. The urn city played a role of extending the defense in depth and strengthening the defensive capability. The urn city Is generally in plumb with the chief city gate. In this way, even if the enemy had entered the urn city gate, they could not successively attack the chief city gate. At the same time, defenders on the ramparts in the four sides could effectively shoot the enemy downward.

Net cities: The net city is a long closed circular city wall for protecting the urn city and the chief city rampart that were exposed to the enemy. Outside the First Pass In The World in Shanhaiguan there was built the Eastern Net City that served for the first defensive line in Shanhaiguan.

      Moats: The moat is a trench barrier dug out around the chief city, and was irrigated by a river. The moat had been generally designed before the real construction of the rampart. The earth dug out would be directly used to build the rampart. When the rampart was completed, the moat also took shape. There is a moat of about 6 meters deep and 15 meters wide around Shanhaiguan. The enemy had to wade the moat before they reached the rampart. Therefore, it would enable the defender to improve the defensive capability and the enemy would find it harder to launch an attack.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015


You’ve probably seen them in countless photographs and illustrations of the Great Wall, and you’re probably aching to see them in person on your Great Wall hike. Read how and why these magnificent structures were built and maintained.

A.      Hollow watchtowers: As a kind of defensive construction, the hollow watchtower was creatively built after Qi Jiquang was named Garrison Commander of Ji Town and saw to the strengthening and construction of the Ji Town Great Wall. The watchtowers were generally located in the commanding height inside the rampart whereupon battles could be easily supported. One ach of the four sides of the hollow watchtower, there is an arrow window. The flat shape of the watchtower is square or rectangular, about 12 to 15 meters high. Some watchtowers are taller. Their length and width are different according to the terrain and the need for defense and offense. The watchtower often has two or three floors. The top floor is in the air with a battlement and a movable wooden watch tower for shooting and the patrol’s warning and communication with smoke and fire, lanterns and flags. The middle floor was for the defender to shoot the enemy. In the wall there are arrow windows and crossbow loopholes for watching and shooting to all directions. The base floor was the boarding house for the soldier, and also could store weapons, provisions, drinking water and other implements of war. Between floors there are stone or wooden stairs or rope ladders. Hollow watchtowers were distributed according to the terrain. They were footholds for the garrison.

B.      Wall platforms: Wall platforms are also called “horse faces”. They are outward protruding platforms on the rampart built with certain distance in between. Wall platforms are as high as the rampart. The three sides of the platform were all exposed to the enemy, and thus on each side there was a battlement. When the enemy was coming near and prepared for climbing up the rampart, defenders would shoot them sideward from the platform with crossfire. “Xingcheng” mentioned in “Bei Ti” and “Bei Gao Lin” in Mozi is the wall platform. In the Warring State Period the wall platform had been widely used for rampart defense. On Many Ming ramparts there are movable wooden watchtowers for the patrol to hide themselves from gale and rain. The distance between every two wall platforms must ensure the effective firing range. After Qi Jiguang had built hollow watchtowers on ramparts, wall platforms became a supplement to the vacuum between watchtowers.

C.       Beacon Towers: Beacon towers are also called “fire mound”, “beacon watchtowers” and “wolves’ dung mound” with a shape of a square, rectangle or circle. They were built for the need of military vigilance and information communication. They have a longer history than The Great Wall and served as an important part of The Great Wall defense system. Beacon towers were mainly built with rammed loess, stones, earth adobes or bricks, among which the first two were the most frequently used materials. The building material is roughly the same with that of the rampart in the same area. In Gansu and Xinjiang there are left many beacon towers of the Han Dynasty. Most of them were built with rammed earth, the cross section of which is like a square with the side length of 6 to 7 meters. The remaining height is about 8 meters. To the south of the beacon towers there would be houses. Today some houses are still there. Around the beacon tower there are sites of land reclamation by garrison troops. The beacon towers on both sides of the brick-laid Ming rampart were mainly built with stones. Only a small amount of them were built with bricks. The dimensions of the beacon tower were decided by concrete situations. The length and width of the Ming beacon towers are 5 to 8 meters, and the height is about 6 meters. The bottom is larger than the top, reducing in certain proportion. On the top there was built a guard house. Differences between the brick-laid beacon towers and the stone-laid ones lie in that the former ones after the walls were built with rubbles and the base with standard block stones, grey bricks were laid layer by layer and white mortar were used to fill up the joints. There were three kinds of Ming beacon towers according to functions. One was along and close to The Great Wall, called the neighboring beacon tower” or “the side mound.” The other was centered on and radiating from The Great Wall, called “the external beacon tower” or “the external mound”. Still another was centered on The Great Wall and extended to the Army and Government Office and Guardian Station inside The Great Wall, called “the internal beacon tower” or “the internal mound”.

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Sunday, November 22, 2015


Like the Pyramids, the building of the Great Wall was a magnificent accomplishment that took hundreds of thousands, if not millions of men to achieve. That’s a little something for you to keep in mind while you’re on your Great Wall tour.

The gigantic undertaking of building The Great Wall required a large quantity of manpower in the building site and the logistics department. The manpower mainly came from three sources: garrison soldiers, drafted civilians and starving masses, and exiled prisoners. 

A.      Soldiers: From The Great Wall of Emperor of Ying Zheng to the grandest one built during the Ming Dynasty, soldiers were the main constructive body. The Great Wall of Emperor Ying Zheng was built over nine years by the 300,000 troops that has been directed by General Meng Tian and beaten off Xiongnu. The well-kept site in Guyang County of Inner Mongolia proves that but for troops the construction in grand ravines and canyons would be impossible. The Han Great Wall was built mostly by garrison soldiers. In a poem written by Chen Lin, one of the seven famous poets in the last years during the Jian An Period of the Eastern Han Dynasty, there is a lien that reads, “True men would rather die in the dust than build The Great Wall in gloom”, which expressed the soldiers’ emotion of the time. The Great Wall of Northern Qi was also built by garrison soldiers. In order to pacify them the regime even married widows in the rear area to them. The boundary moat from the southwest and the northwest of Jinxiu to Taizhou along Linhuang was built by 30,000 soldiers in successive years. The Ming Dynasty provides the best example. During the period The Great Wall construction was a most important duty of the garrison soldier. Each period of construction would involve a large number of soldiers.

B.      Civilians: In all ages civilians were called up in large quantities for construction on The Great Wall, always amounting to tens of thousands, or even a million at a time. During Emperor Ying Zheng’s reign, besides the 300,000 thousand troops that were maneuvered, more than 500,000 civilians were also mobilized. During the Northern Wei Dynasty, for building the defensive line in the frontier, 100,000 civilians were called up from Sizhou, Youzhou, Dingzhou, and Jizhou prefectures. The Northern Qi Great Wall from Xiakou to Hengzhou involved 1,800 civilians. The Sui Great Wall from Yulin in the west to Zihe in the east in today’s Inner Mongolia was constructed by more than 1,000 civilians. During the moat construction in Linhuang of Jinxiu in 1198, besides soldiers and civilians, starving masses were also aroused.

C.      Prisoners: Exiled prisoners were a frequent supplement to The Great Wall construction. During the Qin and Han dynasties, there was a penalty called “rampart construction” that would send prisoners to the construction site for four years. It was stipulated when Emperor Ying Zheng ordered to burn books that those who failed to burn the banned books within thirty days would be shaved bald, ringed around the neck and banished to the frontier to build The Great Wall. At this time a penalty of this kind was heavy. At the frontier the prisoners had to prepare for combats in the daytime and to build The Great Wall at night. Among the laborers constructing The Great Wall, quite a number of people were prisoners. Shuntian Imperial Inspector Yang Zhao recorded in 1571 Memorandum on Armament of Frontier Strategic Towns that prisoners from all prefectures were sent to build The Great Wall, whose working time would be converted into their prison term; when the prison term was completed with enough amount of labor, they would be released.

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