Walk the Great Wall

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Simatai Great Wall Building - single-sided wall by Simatai Great WallSimatai Great Wall

“The Museum of the Great Wall”

The Simatai section of the Great Wall is situated at Gubeikou, 120 Kilometers northeast of urban Beijing. First Built in 1368,  It is among the best-preserved sections of Great Wall of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). A fantastic section characterized by delicate and unique design and diversified structures, it incorporates a variety of styles of other parts of the Great Wall and is thus reputed as the “Museum of the Great Wall”.

“The Great Wall is unmatched around the world” said professor Luo Zhewen, a renowned specialist in research of the Great Wall. “And the Simatai section is unmatched among all sections of the Great Wall.” In 1987, the Great Wall was listed as "World historical culture and natural heritage protection project” by world Heritage Committee of UNESCO, and becomes fortune of the entire humankind.

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West No. 3 Tower

The No. 3 watchtower at the western section is compact and well preserved. The repairing of the exterior and top of the western section played a key role in the preservation of this watchtower. With the typical internal architectural structure of three straight passages, it has 2 doors, 4 windows, and 3 passages. But it is relatively smaller compared to other higher watchtowers. 

The brick arch structure of the W No. 3 watchtower mitigates the damage to the middle part of the watchtower compared with the wooden structure, most of the damages are local.

West No. 4 Tower

Nearby is the No. 4 watchtower, one of the watchtowers of priorities in the rescue and repair project of the Simatai Great Wall. As of now, only a third of the wall remains, though not intact. The remaining wall is supported by steel structures to prevent further damage and collapse.

With a wooden beam building structure, the No. 4 watchtower was severely damaged before the repair efforts. Both the upper structure and half of the inner plinth bars and brick masonry were removed, and the remaining three walls are currently in a high-risk state. In reinforcement design, the removed plinth stones and bricks and the missing column base stones were replaced, and the ground was plastered again. 

West No. 6 Tower

What extends over the high point is the No. 6 watchtower, also known as “the uncrowned watchtower”. With only four walls and no top, a rarely-seen structure among all watchtowers at the western section, it is a unique hollowed watchtower. 

The magnificent exterior and the hollowed interior structure with only a wide open space can show us how exquisite the building techniques were.

Apricot blossoms bloom in the west section of Simatai Great Wall, Wu Qiang, 2021-05-11, From the collection of: Simatai Great Wall
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The 5th and 6th towers at the western section of Simatai Great Wall

East No. 6 Tower

With the internal architecture of a single channel plus an attached channel, the No. 6 watchtower is small and subtle in structure. Standing in the doorway, we can get a good view of the building below. This lofty watchtower, after salvage restoration, has been relatively well preserved up to now. 

East No. 5 Tower

After more than 100 meters of the walking path is the No. 5 watchtower at the eastern section, which has a special construction structure. The walking steps and channel are set in the side, and the walking path is directly connected to the second floor, which means that one side of the wall is without windows. 

Besides, it has a rarely-seen round vaulted structure with the center open and the top round and vaulted design and is surrounded by four corridors. The top of it is all built with bricks and no composite material is seen for bonding, displaying the ingenious and exquisite construction techniques.

East No. 4 Tower

Further down is the No. 4 watchtower, whose interior wooden beam structure has been severely damaged to the same extent as the No. 4 watchtower at the western section, with only the outer corner keeping the original height. As the average height of the rest of the wall is only about 2.5 meters, and there is no risk of collapsing, it was not reinforced in the restoration projects. 

More than half of the inside wall was removed and lintels on the wooden beams were missing. In order to strengthen the rigidity, wooden lintels were added and bricks at the inner side of the wall were heightened to their original altitude. Today, we can still see the large logs remaining in the walls inside this watchtower.

East No. 3 Tower

The East No. 3 watchtower is a brick arch structure with a barrel arch running north-south. In the western end of the watchtower, there were some cracks in the vault due to deformation, but the whole watchtower is still rigid, with only some parts of it reinforced. 

As a solution, three steel reinforcement ties with a diameter of 22 mm were used in positions with the most severe vault deformation and wall cracks, which were then reinforced with steel plates on the outside after passing through the gray joints of the wall. Each steel tie was tightened with a flower basket screw tether in the middle. Up until today, we can still see how it was repaired inside the No. 3 watchtower.

Simatai Great Wall autumn scenery, Simatai Great Wall, From the collection of: Simatai Great Wall
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Simatai Great Wall in autumn and summer, which one do you prefer?

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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