Simatai: “Museum of the Great Wall”

Perilous, dense, peculiar, artful, diverse

By Simatai Great Wall

Dong Yaohui

Summer scenery of Simatai Great Wall by Simatai Great WallSimatai Great Wall

Quick facts

Simatai Great Wall is located where the northeast of Miyun in Beijing meets Hebei province. Here, the Great Wall begins at "Watching-the-capital" Tower in the east and runs up to the General Tower in the west. 

With a total length of 5.4 kilometers and 35 fortified towers, it's divided into eastern and western parts, with the Simatai pass now under water at its center.

Simatai Great Wall Juxian Tower and Wangjing Tower (2019-05-06) by Wu QiangSimatai Great Wall

The total length of the eastern section is about 3 km, with 16 fortified towers. This section is the most spectacular section of Simatai Great Wall. The western section is dense with hollow fortified towers. Compared to the Great Wall east of Simatai pass, the terrain is much smoother.

Snowscape and sea of clouds of Simatai Great Wall ladder (2021-03-20) by Wu QiangSimatai Great Wall

Simatai Great Wall is built atop the ridge, walking along it is thrilling, especially on the heavenly ladder and the sky bridge which are extremely treacherous. The ladder is a 50 meters-long wall built on top of the narrow ridge on a steep incline. This straight ladder is hundreds of feet above the mountain slopes on either side. To the east is an overpass of 100 m long and only 30 cm wide, with cliffs on both sides.

Autumn scenary of Simatai Great Wall by Simatai Great WallSimatai Great Wall

Simatai was exquisitely conceived: its design is scientifically sound, it is novel and peculiar in structure and shape, beautiful and practical in form and unique in style. In essence, it was designed to fit its surroundings, following the changes in the mountainous terrain and using the difficult terrain of the area to create natural barriers. 

Sea of clouds and sunrise at Simatai Great Wall Wangjing Tower (2018-08-09) by Wu QiangSimatai Great Wall

"Watching-the-capital" Tower

"Watching-the-capital" Tower (Wangjing Tower,) the highest fortified tower on the Simatai Great Wall, is 986 meters above sea level. It is said that on a clear night, one can see the lights of Beijing shining in the south. 

Winter snowscape of Simatai Great Wall ladder (2021-02-11) by Wu QiangSimatai Great Wall

Looking up, the brick and stone steps are only wide enough for one person's feet. The steps to the tower rise abruptly in between the cliffs that surround it. Here, you will fully appreciate how the principle of "using the natural dangers of the terrain to create barriers" was utilized when the Great Wall was built. That is, choosing favorable terrain to design and construct according to local geographical characteristics.

Using high mountains, great rivers, and deep valleys as natural barriers, and complementing these with the man made Great Wall structure, they were able to not only enhance combat capability, defend against the enemy and win battles, but also save material resources and manpower.

Close-up of the summer at Fairy Tower of Simatai Great Wall (2020-06-12) by Wu QiangSimatai Great Wall

Fairy Tower

If you want to access Fairy Tower, you must first climb the heavenly ladder. This ladder is more than 100 meters high and has a gradient of more than 60 degrees.

Legend has it that Fairy Tower was originally a beautiful antelope before it was changed. When the lotus fairy saw its elegance she decided to live in it. This is how it came to be called the Fairy Tower. The Fairy Tower is slender, and faintly discernible among the white clouds for at most part of a year. Its white marble arches are carved with images of lotuses.

Snowscape and sea of clouds at Simatai Great Wall Fairy Tower (2021-03-20) by Wu QiangSimatai Great Wall

Fortified towers of various shapes and sizes are scattered along the Great Wall, built right on top of the commanding peaks. Their appearance is as awe-inspiring, grave and upright as heroic soldiers. The whole section of the Great Wall that connects the mountains to one another is so harmonious and magnificent, that everywhere you look there is exquisiteness and grandeur.

Reservoir of Simatai Great Wall, Wu Qiang, 2021-05-25, From the collection of: Simatai Great Wall
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Simatai Pass is now submerged by a reservoir that was built in the 1960s. The Great Wall is divided into eastern and western sections by the reservoir, which is now known as Yuanyang Lake. Due to the underground hot springs, Yuanyang Lake is made up of hot springs with a year-round water temperature of 37℃ that collides with cold springs. The lake water is both half warm and half cold. In the depths of winter when the water turns to ice, the lake can still be found rippling with blue waves and rising mist.

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