Introducing the Great Wall at Mutianyu
Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is located in Huairou district, about 85 km northeast of Beijing. Mu means to long for; Tian means fields while Yu means a valley. In the past, the farmers lived in this area used to long for more fields to plant more things. The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is connected with Jiankou in the west and Lianhuachi in the east. As one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall, the Mutianyu Great Wall used to serve as the northern barrier, defending the capital and Ming tombs.
The Great Wall at Mutianyu was built and restored in the early Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), on the remnants of a Wall originally built in the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577). Reconstruction took place under the supervision of Xu Da, one of the founding generals of the Ming Dynasty, who was responsible for building a Wall from Shanhaiguan in the east to as far as Mutianyu. The Ming pass at Mutianyu was officially proclaimed in 1404, where it would serve as an important symbol of protection from marauding nomads from the north.
Reconstruction began in 1568 on 1000 kilometers of the Wall including Mutianyu. Responsibility was given to Qi Jiguang, a general who had built his credentials fighting Japanese pirates, and who took his responsibilities as a builder very seriously. Construction continued for many years, as the fortifications were built up with solid granite blocks, and included the construction of some of the larger defensive towers. The most recent renovation of the Wall at Mutianyu took place from 1982-1986, at the direction of the Beijing government. Rather than a defensive fortification, the Mutianyu Great Wall has been designated as a national tourist attraction, attracting millions of visitors each year.
Mutianyu Great Wall is a bit more rugged and far less crowded than the more famous Badaling Great Wall. There are abundant natural springs which feed a great variety of plants and trees. Over 96% of Mutianyu is covered by trees and orchards, keeping the air fragrant with chestnut blossoms in the spring and fresh all year long.
Built mainly from granite, the pass at Mutianyu is an appropriately unique section of the Great Wall. With a height of 7 to 8 meters, and width of 4 to 5 meters, as well as crenellations on both sides of the Wall, the section of the Wall at Mutianyu stretches for over 2.5 kilometers. Matching its military importance, the Mutianyu Great Wall has 25 watchtowers built at almost 100 meter intervals. This number of towers is much more than would be expected along the Wall, and is also highlighted by the particular form and structure unique to this section. The Zheng Guan Tai gate stands with three connected watchtowers, with the center tower rising above the flanking structures. While each tower has its own gate, the main watchtower gate is on the east side of the building, which is quite unusual. Other unique features in this section include the ‘Tail Wall’ which stretches out perpendicular to the Wall along a ridgeline for stronger defensive positioning. Invading nomads would use the ridgelines as they marched, to avoid being caught unawares in the brambles and trees below, and the positioning of the Great Wall along the ridgeline and these adjoining tail walls are recognition of the importance of this high ground.