The Jinshanling section of the Great Wall is about 133 kilometers (82.5 miles) away from downtown Beijing and stretches from Miyun County of Beijing, to Luanping County of Hebei Province. The name came from two towers-Greater Jinshan Tower and Lesser Jinshan Tower on the Great Wall in this region. It was said that three thousand soldiers under Ming General Qi Jiguang (1528-1587) were all natives of Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces. They built two watch towers andnamed them after Great Jinshan Island and Lesser Jinshan Island in Zhenjiang, their homeland, just to show their sentimental feelings toward their hometown.

    Jinshanling Great Wall has two unique features: first, the density of the watch towers; the Jinshanling Section of the Great Wall is 13 kilometers (8 miles) long but with 90 watch towers. The general interval of the watch tower on the wall is about 100 meters, but in some places with more complex terrain, the interval is only 50 to 60 meters. Such density of the watch towers is really rarely seen on the entire length of the Great Wall.

    Since the terrain in the Jinshanling area is so complex, its defense project was especially strong. Many beacon towers were built on every vantage point north of the Great Wall to control the high vantage points and protect the main Wall. Thus, the defense of the Great Wall was further enhanced, forming a special feature of the Great Wall at Jinshanling.

    The other feature is the “Barrier Wall”. The Barrier Wall was built on the top inside the Great Wall, vertical and parallel to the battlements. The Barrier Wall is 2.5 meters high with peep holes and arrow holes in it. It served as the second barrier whenever the enemy climbed up the Great Wall.

    The Simatai Great Wall is about 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of Beijing in Miyun County. This section of the Great Wall is about 19 kilometers (11.8 miles) long with 35 magnificent watch towers. It joins the Great Wall at Jinshanling in the west. The design of this section is ingenious and peculiar; it’s really valuable for the study of military affairs and construction of that time.

    The unique feature of this section is dangerous and precipitous. Many parts of the Great Wall here were built on sheer cliffs or on steep mountain slopes. It rises and falls sharply but has every essential structure-walls, watch towers and parapets.

    Some parts were built on the sheer cliffs, so local people call it “Heavenly Ladder”. The “Heavenly Ladder” is a part of the wall built on a slope at an angle of 60-70 degrees, and some parts are 90 degrees. Some places are so narrow on the mountain ridges that only a thin wall could be built on the top of the very steep cliff with a barrier wall built on it known as “single side wall”.
The “Heavenly Bridge” is a path over a precipice, about 100 meters long and 3 or 4 feet wide, which crosses abysses about 500 meters deep. With nothing to hold on to, the slightest wind will make visitors tremble with fear, so visitors must climb with extreme care. No wonder the Great Wall at Simatai is described as: “the greatest of the whole length of the Great Wall”. There are more than 10,000 bricks on the Simatai Great Wall that bear inscriptions noting the date and maker of the bricks of the Ming Dynasty. Such a large number of inscribed bricks are rarely seen in other parts of the Great Wall. Along this section, on the top of a steep cliff of Simatai Great Wall, about 1,000 meters above sea level, a watch tower is located on a vantage point known as “Tower for Watching the Capital”. People say that on a clear night, one can see the lights in Beijing from this tower. Hence the name, “Tower for Watching the Capital”. Because the Tower is located on a vantage point and it is also the most dangerous place to reach, visitors must walk over some unrepaired paths, including the “Heavenly Ladder” and “Heavenly Bridge”. Also, because of the dangers involved in reaching the Tower, today very few people ever get there.

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