Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Old Dragon’s Head: Where The Great Wall of China Meets the Sea

The Great Wall of China is one of the most amazing piece of architecture and the most ambitious building project ever attempted in the history of mankind. Construction of this formidable defensive structure, built to ward off invasion and to protect the Chinese Empire, goes back by more than two thousand years to the the 7th century BC during the Chunqiu period. Especially famous is the wall built between 220–206 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. Little of that wall remains. Since then, the Great Wall has on and off been rebuilt, maintained and fortified. Construction continued up to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), when the Great Wall became the world's largest military structure.

One of the more interesting places to visit The Great Wall is where it meets the Bohai Sea near Shanghaiguan in Qinhuangdao City about 300 kilometers east of Beijing. Shanhaiguan or Shanhai Pass is one of the major passes of the Great Wall of China located south of Yan Mountain, and north of the Bohai Sea. The Wall extends 5 kilometers north of Shanhai Pass where it juts into the sea. This is where The Wall starts (or ends depending on how you look at it) and from here it stretches to Lop Lake in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia – a length of approximately 8,850 km.

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The end of the Great Wall of China. Photo credit

This part of the wall is known as Laolongtou or the Old Dragon’s Head, because it looks like a long dragon dipping his head drinking water from the sea. This section of the Wall extends about 23 meters out into the Bohai Sea, and it is possible to walk out onto the Wall and look over the edge directly down into the water below. Laolongtou was built in 1579 in the Ming Dynasty.

In July 1904, Japanese troops landed at Shanhai Pass, prior to marching on Peking to relieve the siege of the legations during the Boxer Uprising. A pre-landing bombardment of the area, which was totally unnecessary as few Chinese troops were present, destroyed this section of the wall. What stands today is a 1980s effort by the authorities to replicate the original. By the shore, the Changtai Tower, and the Temple to the Sea Goddess that sits in its center, was originally built in 1579, but is now covered with replica soldiers in Qing Dynasty costumes. Most interestingly, the original wall was built using a mixture of glutinous rice soup mixed with sand, earth and lime.

The Laolongtou Great Wall is mainly formed by 7 parts, which are the Estuary Stone City, Chenghai Tower, Nereus Temple, Jinglu Beacon Tower, Nanhaikou (Southern Estuary) Pass, Ninghai City and Binhai (Seafront) Walls. Among them, Chenghai Tower is the most celebrated structure. Chenghai Tower is a two-storey building built with wood and bricks, which functioned as a defensive arrow tower. Emperors of the Qing Dynasty once visited it while on their way to Northeast China, worshipped their ancestors and left many poems and inscriptions. There are also poems by famous literary figures inscribed on the tablets embedded on the walls.

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Watchtower on the wall, Shanhaiguan. Photo credit

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Stairs to the Old Dragon's Head. Photo credit

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Aerial view of Laolongtou and the surrounding area. Photo credit

Sources: Wikipedia, Wanderlustandlipstick, Chinahighlights, Thegreatwall

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