The Great Wall is the national symbol of China. We have all seen the pictures – where walls and massive towers snake vertiginously along the ridgetops of mountains and descend to follow steep valleys as far as the eye can see. Writing in the seventeenth century Jesuit Martino Martini claimed the Wall was “longer than the entire length of Asia.” But contrary to popular myth, the Wall is not one continuous monolithic structure that continues to exist. In fact, it is a series of walls built over centuries by different Chinese dynasties. And many of these structures are crumbling or no longer exist. Fortunately for visitors, a number of prime locations are within easy travelling distance of Beijing. Walkers have an abundance of choices – from the crumbling ramparts at places like Luowenyou to the impressive restorations at sites such as Jinshanling (featured on the book’s cover) or Shanhaiguan, where the Dragon’s Head plunges dramatically into the Bohai Sea.
Photos by T. Cossey