Shanhaiguan

山海关



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At Shanhaiguan, the Great Wall of China meets the sea. The name of the city literally means "the pass between the mountain and the sea". The wall extends from here along its 5,500 mile journey, snaking and branching across China to the western province of Xinjiang. It was at Shanhaiguan in 1644 that the Qing armies of the north were let through, in the belief that they would side with one of the warring factions of the Ming dynasty. Instead, the Qing defeated them both and proceded to rule China until 1911.

Shanhaiguan was not far from Tianjin where I happened to be living at the time, so we headed up on a Friday night train after work. We stayed in a brand new Chinese hotel which was excellent value, in spite of the strange arrangement of plate glass between the bedroom and the bathroom. It was a summer weekend but the weather was quite misty, and not exactly great for sitting on a beach.


Great Wall of China through mist

Through the mist we could just make out the wall as it headed up the first mountain encountered since rising from the sea.



Large sections of the wall were restored in the 80s, but some parts remain overgrown and crumbling as they have been for hundreds of years.

Old Great Wall


Steep Great Wall

In spite of its proximity to the sea, the wall heads up some very steep hills very quickly. This made Shanhaiguan a great place for a fortified pass.



Chilling out on the wall. Endless fun with a camera.

Gravity defying Great Wall tourist


Incense burning

It being Asia, it wasn't long before we chanced upon a Buddhist monastery.



I liked the look of this blue warrior dude.

Angry blue warrior


Gate into old Shanhaiguan

Back in the town of Shanhaiguan itself. The old city sits in a square-walled section of Great Wall, but much of the interior has recently been redeveloped to look "olde-worlde" again. This is the south gate.



Relief starts taking the light rain.

Rainy relief


Shanhaiguan

The centre of old Shanhaiguan, I guess a drum tower or bell tower of some sort. It was all a bit austere and sterile since the renovations, there didn't seem to be as much life as I'd expected.



Over at the north gate, you could sit yourself on a horse and get a picture like the Lone Ranger for 5 kuai.

Horseplay


First Pass Under Heaven Gate

First Pass Under Heaven Gate or Tian Xia Di Yi Guan in Chinese, which for the benefit of those unable to read Chinese characters, is in fact written backwards here.



This section of the wall was going like a fair, indeed you could even dress up as a Chinese Communist Party soldier for a laugh. Yes, I did.

Wall tourists


Traditional sedan chair, rocky ride

In the absence of actual fairground rides, there was a bloke playing crazy music on a snake-charming flute, and hapless tourists were thrown about in a sedan chair in time. This is like a pre-wedding ceremony for a bride-to-be.



A branch of the Great Wall butting right up onto the beach. Complete with marauding Mongolians trying to make a break for it into China.

End of the Great Wall


Great Wall beach defenses

The wall follows the line of the beach for a few hundred yards. A pretty cool accessory to have on your beach - the Great Wall of China.



I knew it was a top-class tourist destination when I saw the camel. See Yangshuo for more camel-related tourism.

Ali Baba and his camel, Wong


Wedding pics

The newly married couples were once again out in force for photos, although I guess the weather wasn't the best for it. The groom's eyes said it all - "wot you lookin' at?"



The Old Dragon's Head, the actual end (or start) of the Great Wall of China. It wouldn't be easy getting an army round that, presuming they accounted for the tide going out. My best translation of the sign is "China - Keep Out!"

Old Dragon's Head, the Great Wall meets the sea


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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2010