The Mutianyu Great Wall, 70 kilometers from Beijing, has a long history and splendid culture. With its own unique architectural style, it expresses the essence of the Great Wall of the Ming dynasty.
In spring, flowers bloom; in summer, nearby mountains fed with spring water are covered with green; in autumn, red leaves cover the mountain range, and its trees bear fruit; in winter, snow falls onto a pure white world. Thus has Mutianyu become known as the best part of the Great Wall.
I. Geographical Location
The Mutianyu Great Wall is located in Mutianyu Village in Huairou district, with Gubeikou to the east and Huanghuacheng and Badaling to the west. It's also not far from Juyong Pass, Zijing Pass, and Daoma Pass. As the poem goes, "west of Bohai fairyland, east of purple and green Juyong", so the steep and towering terrain makes it possible to preserve the Wall at Mutianyu as it was in the Ming Dynasty. In those days it was also a great military barrier and a protection for the capital and Imperial Tombs; thus it has been a hotly contested spot since ancient times.
II. Natural Environment
The Mutianyu Great Wall has four distinct seasons, and tourism activities are carried out all year round. With its range of surrounding mountains, the vegetation coverage rate is more than 96 percent, and the annual average temperature is 11.9 degrees Celsius. The warm and humid climate helps keep abundant vegetation coverage, so the Great Wall remains nestled in the green mountains and rivers as in ancient times. The atmosphere and the beauty of nature is well blended into one harmonious whole, giving rise to Mutianyu's reputation as having the most unique beauty anywhere along the ten thousand li Great Wall. There are over a thousand trees close by that are more than a hundred years old. From the beginning of March apricot trees, peach trees, rhododendrons and other plants start to bloom one after another on the mountains; into the summer, the mountains turn green, with spring water running below the trees; autumn is the time for green pine trees and cypress trees, red maples, oak, and chestnuts, as well as yellow apricot, and golden pear, persimmon and purple pear and plum trees. All different colors of leaves intertwine with the white branches in an autumnal mood. In winter, snow-clad mountains gleam with a northern light.
III. Landscape features
The tower Zhengguantai, located at Mutianyu, is very rare because it is a combination of three watchtowers in one. There are several sections in its northwestern part, known as the "cow horns edge", "arrow" and "Eagles flying face up", which are steep, towering, and undulating, and resemble a soaring dragon.
Also known as Mutianyuguan, or Three Buildings, this series of three watchtowers was built in the Ming Yongle 2nd year (AD 1404). They are lined up together, in two layers. The middle one is relatively big and the others are smaller. The floors of the three watchtowers are connected, forming a main hall in the centre with rooms to the side, a very rare Great Wall construction.
2. Dilou Towers
There are many Dilou towers, or defensive watchtowers, in the Mutianyu Great Wall. There are four between the 1st Muzi Terrace (Dajiao Tower) and the fourth Muzi Terrace (Zhengguan Tower) less than 500 meters apart; from the 1st Muzi Terrace to the 20th Muzi Terrace, there're 25 buildings including watchtowers, battlements and wall units, and bedrooms within 3000 meters. It's unusual to see a Dilou tower every one hundred meters in the Great Wall.
3. Double Crenels
The Mutianyu Great Wall has crenels or indentations on both sides of the Wall. The rest of the Great Wall has crenels on the outer wall, but the Mutianyu stretch has crenels on both sides so that soldiers could fight against the enemy in two directions. This means the Mutianyu Great Wall has strategic importance in the history of battle.
4. Branch City
There are both outside stretches and inner stretches at the Mutianyu Great Wall. A so-called Branch City refers to a branch stretch built and connected to the main stretch of the Wall. The outside stretch connects to the 11th Muzi Terrace Wall; and the inner stretch, called the "Bald Tail Side", extends to the south from the Big Horn Tower.
5. "Ox Horn Edge”
This part of the Mutianyu Great Wall winds its way from north to west. At the No. 20 Watchtower, it climbs straight up the hillside to the north high cliff top, 1039 meters above the flat south, and meets a tower at the top of the mountain. It then turns along the cliff edge straight down through the valleys along the opposite ridge. Finally it winds its way down westward. With its twists and turns, it resembles a horn, vigorous and strong, and is known as the "Ox Horn Edge".
6. "Flying Eagles face up"
One side of this part of the Great Wall is cliff, and the other is a steep rise of 70 degrees. The Wall climbs to the peak from one side of a cliff and drops about 10 meters to the other side almost straight down. Each step is only a few fingers wide, and one can hardly fit in a foot. That's why it is described as "Flying Eagles face up", meaning it's very lofty and cragged.