The “Wild Great Wall” of Fun­ing: A Show­case of Great Wall Ar­chi­tec­ture

A Show­case of Great Wall Ar­chi­tec­ture

China Scenic - - Contents - By Li Zhanyi

The Great Wall sec­tion runs through Fun­ing County, He­bei Prov­ince is merely a “wild” part of the Wall, but through the eyes of pho­tog­ra­pher Li Zhanyi, it can be seen as a mas­ter­piece of an­cient ar­chi­tec­ture.

To be pre­cise, the sec­tion of the Great Wall pass­ing through He­bei Prov­ince is most highly con­cen­trated on the bor­der in the north­ern sec­tion of Fun­ing County, which is gov­erned by Qin­huang­dao City. More than half the county’s area con­sists of moun­tain­ous ter­rain, and these moun­tains are in­ter­con­nected by over 100 kilo­me­ters of the Great Wall built in Ming Dy­nasty (1368–1644). The Wall here is usu­ally re­ferred to as the “Wild Great Wall”, the rea­son for which is that, other than pho­tog­ra­phers like us, vir­tu­ally no one ever sets foot here.

Har­mony with the Ter­rain

The Fun­ing Great Wall, with a to­tal length of about 142.5 kilo­me­ters, runs from east to west through four dif­fer­ent small towns (Zhu­caoy­ing, Shi­men­zhai, Suizhong, Dax­inzhai). What’s most amaz­ing to me is that, other than the restora­tions of the Ji­u­menkou Great Wall Bridge, lo­cated in Suizhong Town, which was de­vel­oped as a tourism re­source, all other parts of the Wall through­out the area have un­der­gone no restora­tion what­so­ever.

The most dis­tinc­tive struc­tures of the Ji­u­menkou Great Wall are the city bridge and “Mother and Son Tow­ers”. At this point the Wall drops from a cliff to the valley be­low; the b bed of the river is lined with gran­ite slabs in­ter­con­nected by iron tenons, then gran­ite serves as a foun­da­tion for the bridge, which ex­tends be­tween the watch tow­ers on ei­ther b bank of the river. The “Mother and Son Tow­ers” were built on the wide, open area to the south­west of the J Ji­u­menkou City wall, and are named so as one is smaller than the other, the smaller tower con­structed in an arced half-moon shape, lean­ing against the east side of the larger cylin­dri­cal tower.

The tow­ers are a sep­a­rate struc­ture from the Wall, not con­nected to it in any way, lo­cated at a dis­tance of about one kilo­me­ter away from the Ji­u­menkou Fort. Schol­ars be­lieve that the struc­ture’s main pur­pose may ei­ther have been as a venue for as­sign­ing tasks to mil­i­tary lead­ers posted at the pass, or as a place from where bat­tle­field or­ders would be given. Chi­nese ar­chi­tec­ture scholar and Vice Direc­tor of the Great Wall of China As­so­ci­a­tion Luo Zhewen, upon in­spec­tion of the struc­ture, noted that the

When com­pared to most of the bet­ter known sec­tions of the Great Wall, that which runs through Fun­ing County, He­bei Prov­ince is merely a “wild” part of the Wall, but through the eyes of a pho­tog­ra­pher, it can be seen as a mas­ter­piece of an­cient ar­chi­tec­ture. Pho­tog­ra­pher Li Zhanyi spent four years tread­ing through the moun­tains here, along which the Ming Dy­nasty Great Wall spans over 100 kilo­me­ters, and shows us each of the dif­fer­ent styles of ar­chi­tec­ture that it en­com­passes.

“Mother and Son Tow­ers” are a unique ar­chi­tec­tural for­mat among the ter­races of the Great Wall, with this be­ing the only such ex­am­ple.

Most of the Ji­u­menkou Great Wall rolls across moun­tains of 500 me­ters or less in el­e­va­tion, and in most places the wall stands tall and broad, but it gets much more nar­row and dan­ger­ous as it stretches out­ward to­ward the hori­zon. The styles of the wall and its watch­tow­ers, with dif­fer­ent heights and sit­ting atop dif­fer­ent types of ter­rain, are very widely var­ied as well.

The Great Wall run­ning through Dongji­akou, in the north­east part of Zhu­caoy­ing Town, with an el­e­va­tion of about 600 me­ters, is a thread­bare stretch of brick wall. From the east­ern tower it abruptly drops al­most straight down­ward, as it reaches to­ward a slope at the base of the moun­tain into a dan­ger­ous gully be­low. From a dis­tance, it looks as though the wall is sim­ply hang­ing down the face of the cliff.

To the west of Ban­changyu Vil­lage, also part of Zhu­caoy­ing Town, I came across a sec­tion of the Great Wall that was built atop boul­ders. The wall drops from a point of Jiang­goulazi Moun­tain

800 me­ters above sea level, plum­met­ing 400 me­ters down­ward, then sud­denly ends. Sur­round­ing the wall, across the slope and the ridge of the moun­tain, a large number of boul­ders are scat­tered. Some of them are even big­ger than the watch­tow­ers con­nect­ing the wall, in­clud­ing the tow­ers that are about ten me­ters both wide and tall.

The boul­ders are sep­a­rate from one an­other, re­sem­bling a dis­ar­rayed Stone­henge ar­range­ment, but as they are all con­nected by the wall, the over­all ef­fect is that of con­ti­nu­ity and mo­men­tum. Later, with the help of two youths who had ac­com­pa­nied me on my jour­ney, I got a close look at a Great Wall watch­tower of the Pingdingyu Great Wall on the plateau at the top of Xis­han Moun­tain’s cliff. This tower had also been con­structed atop a strange rock, its foun­da­tion made from gran­ite, and the spot where the stone con­nected with the base was so tightly carved that, when I tried to stick a coin in the crack, I couldn’t find a sin­gle spot where the coin would fit.

But there were more sur­prises. Near Ban­changyu Vil­lage there was also a deep valley, from the bot­tom of which to the top of the cliff there was a di­rect drop of over 100 me­ters, but even over such a sheer precipice the wall con­tin­ued from ledge to gul­ley. There were even four watch­tow­ers sit­ting along the cliff, which when viewed from the valley be­low made my head swim.

Near the vil­lage there is also a col­lec­tion of nat­u­ral stone pil­lars, each about ten me­ters in height and straight as a tree trunk. The Wall runs right along the edges of the pil­lars, with al­most no room for footholds. On the west side of the pil­lars is a moun­tain with an el­e­va­tion of over 800 me­ters, run­ning from east to west, and stand­ing on the east side look­ing down, no path can be seen. This is be­cause the stone pil­lars are much taller than the watch­tow­ers, so when the tow­ers were made, the builders used the pil­lars in place of the wall. These watch­tow­ers, since they were built straight on the face of the moun­tain, mak­ing them inac- ces­si­ble to most peo­ple, com­bined with their solid foun­da­tions, have been im­mac­u­lately pre­served for hun­dreds of years.

The Three “Classes” of Walls

On the west edge of Ban­changyu Vil­lage there is a sec­tion of wall that runs down a very steep slope, on the in­te­rior of which there are square­shaped brick plat­forms, with stairs lead­ing up con­structed by their side. These square plat­forms were where sol­diers stood guard over the Great Wall, their us­age sim­i­lar to that of bat­tle­ments, but the plat­forms are all at straight an­gles, each one lower down the slope than the last. There is a drop be­tween each plat­form of about 1.9 me­ters, so there is no way to walk be­tween them. If some­one wishes to move to the next plat­form down, he must fol­low the path­way be­side it. Each step of the path­way is made from a sin­gle piece of stone, carved about 50 cen­time­ters in height. The steps are very evenly

lev­eled, but since no one has used or tended them in so long, the cracks be­tween the steps are now over­grown with weeds.

Once you ar­rive at the sum­mit and pass by the watch­tower on the edge of the cliff, the wall shoots straight down the western side of Jiang­goulazi Moun­tain, then con­tin­ues along the West Moun­tain in Ban­changyu, be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing into the dis­tant moun­tains. The moun­tains through which the Wall runs have many clus­tered peaks, with dra­matic fluc­tu­a­tions in height. Look­ing down from above, the watch­tow­ers nes­tled among the moun­tains ap­pear very closely packed. To the south­west of Ban­changyu Vil­lage, the hills be­come sig­nif­i­cantly gen­tler, mak­ing the area much more sus­cep­ti­ble to at­tack, so within the range of about 700 me­ters here, a to­tal of 12 watch­tow­ers were con­structed, with an av­er­age dis­tance be­tween them of less than 60 me­ters.

The Fun­ing Ming Great Wall, fash­ioned of brick, has an even and smooth fin­ish on both the in­te­rior and ex­te­rior sides. Some of my ar­chae­ol­o­gist friends have told me that the wall here is mostly built with an outer shell of brick on ei­ther side, which is filled with gravel or clay, then this is cov­ered with brick or stone to form a foun­da­tion, and run­ning along the sides there are also gut­ters and drains to keep rain­wa­ter from seep­ing into the body of the wall. Af­ter I heard this, when I came to a par­tic­u­larly run-down part of the wall I checked to see for my­self, and no­ticed that there was in­deed gravel and clay show­ing through where bricks were miss­ing. Look­ing at frac­tures in the sur­face I also no­ticed that some parts had three lay­ers of brick, which is ap­par­ently a “first class” sec­tion of the Fun­ing Great Wall.

Lo­cal ar­chae­ol­o­gists study­ing the Fun­ing Great Wall have di­vided its side-walls into three dif­fer­ent

classes. The first class fea­tures long slen­der stones uses as the foun­da­tion on ei­ther side of side-walls, cov­ered with a layer of brick. The high, thick walls here typ­i­cally pro­tect passes and ar­eas that are es­pe­cially prone to at­tack. Where the wall runs at its widest, four horse car­riages can travel on it side by side.

The sec­ond class side-walls have a layer of brick or stone on the out­side, while in­side quarry stone is used. The tops of the walls and the watch­tow­ers are all made of brick. The third class side- walls were made us­ing dry ma­sonry, with nat­u­ral stone ma­te­ri­als of­ten be­ing col­lected from the near vicin­ity. In the more pre­cip­i­tous lo­cales this method is par­tic­u­larly prom­i­nent. Although the walls are rather low, since they were built on the tops of very dan­ger­ous moun­tains, where some­times the stones are un­sta­ble, thus un­pre­pared would- be tres­passers may meet their demise ei­ther by los­ing foothold or by rolling stones from above.

Most of the grey bricks used to build the walls were pro­duced lo­cally. In 2002 ar­chae­ol­o­gists dis­cov­ered over 60 Great Wall brick kilns in Ban­changyu, and per­formed thor­ough ex­ca­va­tion of two of them. The brick kilns were over four me­ters in width and al­most as great in depth, and on the floor of the kilns were over 2,200 grey bricks that had al­ready been fired and were ar­ranged in neat rows, as if await­ing the re­turn of the kiln’s owner.

Great Wall Relics Scat­tered through­out the Moun­tains

As an ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage hav­ing re­mained in­tact through many wars, the Great Wall run­ning through Fun­ing has wit­nessed hun­dreds of years of mil­i­tary his­tory. I’ve vis­ited Chengziyu Vil­lage of Zhu­caoy­ing Town, a lo­ca­tion of the Ming Great Wall, on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, and on the wall in the north of the vil­lage you can still see the ru­ins of ar­se­nals and ar­mory tow­ers. The ru­ins some­what re­sem­ble the stone arched bridges of to­day, be­ing half sub­merged in earth.

In Septem­ber 1984, a lo­cal vil­lager named Kan Yu­jiang dis­cov­ered a set of bronze breech-load­ing swivel guns among the ru­ins.

There were 3 swivel guns and 24 small breech- load­ing can­nons, along with steel shafts and am­mu­ni­tion. To use the weapons, black gun­pow­der would be in­serted into the shaft, then pel­lets would be placed through the mouth of the weapon; af­ter the stock was fixed in place, the fuze could be ig­nited and the gun fired. These hand can­nons were a rev­o­lu­tion­ary in­ven­tion in war­fare, and swivel gun and small breech-load­ing can­non can only be found in this part of China. They are cur­rently on dis­play at the Mil­i­tary Mu­seum of the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Revo­lu­tion. Through­out the area, in­clud­ing the vil­lages of Ban­changyu, Naziyu and Huachangyu, weapons such as stone can­nons and stone pro­jec­tiles are also of­ten found.

Along the edge of the walls there are large num­bers of sculp­tures and tablets record­ing events. When I went to the Great Wall at Shibeigou (“Stone Tablet Valley”) in Taiy­ing Town, I climbed a watch­tower, where dis­cov­ered an en­grav­ing above the bat­tle­ments bear­ing the words “May all men and horses be safe”. The characters are scrawled dis­or­derly, so my guess is that the builders wrote the phrase on a whim, pos­si­bly in ex­pres­sion of their de­sire for peace.

I re­called that when the lo­cal De­part­ment of Cul­tural Relics was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Great Wall, they also dis­cov­ered a to­tal of 29 tablets record­ing the struc­ture’s com­ple­tion, as well as texts en­graved on cliffs, and brick and stone carv­ings. The tablets in­cluded de­tailed in­for­ma­tion such as the time, lo­ca­tion and scale of the walls and watch­tow­ers that had been built, along with the names of the of­fi­cers re­spon­si­ble for the tasks, the names of the work unit and work­ers, and even the names of the ar­chi­tec­tural struc­tures used in the watch­tow­ers.

In ad­di­tion, cliff carv­ings were also found, which de­scribed the very spe­cific amounts of ra­tions to be al­lot­ted to the bor­der troops, as well as the date of birth of Qi Jiguang, a renowned bor­der gen­eral and the lead­ing con­struc­tor of the Ming Great Wall, and over a dozen po­ems ded­i­cated to him carved on the cliffs of Tianma Moun­tain and Beiniu Peak. But to me the most valu­able find are the de­signs of sculp­tures and pat­terns carved into the bricks of the bat­tale­ments and arched doors of watch­tow­ers; I’ve been to most

parts of the Great Wall through­out China, in­clud­ing Gansu, Bei­jing and He­bei, and never be­fore have I come across carv­ings and de­signs such as those found here.

Most of the watch­tow­ers along the Fun­ing Great Wall have door­ways made of stone, with a foun­da­tion at the bot­tom, atop which the door frame is built, then at the bot­tom of the frame is a hexag­o­nal slab, and then above this is an arched door. The carv­ings on the arched door are in bas-re­lief, and each is unique: some fea­ture pre- cious vases with flow­ers in them, some vine-en­tan­gled flow­ers, oth­ers de­pict dif­fer­ent types of beasts and an­i­mals, or tra­di­tional Chi­nese sym­bols of aus­pi­cious­ness. The arched door of a watch­tower to the north­west of Dongji­akou is carved with the words “loy­alty and de­vo­tion for our home­land”.

I’ve been told that the pat­terns on the arched doors here were carved in quarry be­fore be­ing sent to the con­struct­ing spots for as­sem­bling. Stone work such as this is mostly seen in places with high de­mand for ar­chi­tec­tural qual­ity. But re­gard­less of where these tow­ers are built, the ma­te­ri­als and style are the same, with a foun­da­tion at the bot­tom, then a tower, and a look­out post on top. Within the tower there are stone steps and a pas­sage­way lead­ing up to the look­out post, but the pas­sage­way is not like the stair­cases we see to­day, it jumps up very high and steeply.

At the Naziyu Great Wall in Zhu­caoy­ing Town, I’ve been to a watch­tower that was par­tic­u­larly well pre­served; it sits atop a cliff

500 me­ters tall, and its foun­da­tion is made from a sin­gle slab of rock, upon which stone slabs are laid. Upon closer in­spec­tion, I dis­cov­ered that all of the stone slabs were ex­actly 2.48 me­ters in length, 40 cen­time­ters thick and 60 cen­time­ters wide, and the faces of the slabs had been carved by hand. One time as I was walk­ing past a fallen watch­tower, I saw sev­eral of these long stone slabs scat­tered across the ground, each of the faces clearly hand-carved. As for how ex­actly these stone slabs were trans­ported there re­mains a mys­tery.

To­day, these walls and tow­ers made of grey brick and stone have long since lost their pur­pose of pro­tec­tion from north­ern no­madic in­vaders, leav­ing be­hind only a tan­gi­ble look at the past.

Photo/ Li Zhanyi

Lo­cated in Taiy­ing Town, Fun­ing County, the en­tire Shibeigou Great Wall was con­structed with brick, with a base made of stone. Although most parts of the Wall are in good con­di­tion, one can hardly ig­nore the traces of age and war­fare.

Photo/ Li Zhanyi

To ac­com­mo­date lo­cal ter­rain, the east­ern part of Fun­ing Great Wall emerges from the land in var­i­ous forms. In cer­tain sec­tions, the Wall drops dras­ti­cally along the moun­tain range, as if hang­ing off the cliff, form­ing an im­pos­ing view.

Photo/ Wang Shoumin

The Great Wall stretches west­wards from Pingdingyu, passes through Ban­changyu and fi­nally reaches the Jian­goulazi Moun­tain, where a dozen of peaks line the sky, with the high­est 837 me­ters, while oth­ers about 700 me­ters. The height of the moun­tains here fluc­tu­ate dras­ti­cally and atop them stand a dozen of watch­tow­ers, blended into the lo­cal to­pog­ra­phy, form­ing an im­pen­e­tra­ble de­fen­sive sys­tem.

Photo/ Zhang Dezhi

The Yiyuankou-naziyu sec­tion of the Great Wall is a part that bears both mag­nif­i­cence and del­i­cate grace be­cause its bat­tle­ments are in­laid with golden stone slabs. When seen from the sky, the Wall ap­pears as if a golden rib­bon is wav­ing in the wind.

Photo/ Xiao Jidi

There are two types of hol­low watch­tower on the Fun­ing Great Wall: the square-shaped, both ten me­ters tall and wide, and the rec­tan­gle-shaped, eight me­ters wide and ten me­ters tall. To­day, there are 56 well-pre­served and 138 mod­er­ately pre­served watch­tow­ers in Fun­ing.

Photo/ Shen Yan­shuo

In plain and hilly ar­eas, with low el­e­va­tions and gen­tle moun­tain slopes, the long-de­serted Wall has be­come the play­ground of vil­lage herds.

Photo/ Shen Yan­shuo

Vil­lages ad­ja­cent to the Fun­ing Great Wall de­vel­oped orig­i­nally from fortresses along the Wall. Due to the iso­la­tion of these ar­eas, lo­cal vil­lagers con­tinue to fol­low the old-fash­ioned ru­ral lifestyle passed down from their an­ces­tors.

Photo/ Wang Shoumin

For cen­turies, the Fun­ing Great Wall built with densely clus­tered gravel main­tains its orig­i­nal ap­pear­ance. Ly­ing at the foot of the moun­tains where it stands, a mod­ern coastal city stands in sharp con­trast to its ag­ing neigh­bor.

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