"Badaling - where Wall meets Mall" Top 5 Page for this destination Badalingzhen by mke1963

Badalingzhen Travel Guide: 47 reviews and 185 photos

Badaling is famous across China for being the "home" of the Great Wall of China.
Of course it is not: it is just one place among thousands where the Great Wall can be seen in its splendour. It is a particularly important pass, allowing transit down from Zhangjiakou (the old Kolgan) to the North China Plain, with Beijing situated strategically at the foot of the pass.
Badaling has always been a favourite place for exploring the Great Wall, and now, every day, tens of thousands of tourists - Chinese and foreign - come to see this great wonder.
Over the decades, the Great Wall at Badaling has been restored and made safe for tourists. Sadly, the restoration has, in the past, been done unsympathetically, and original building techniques have not been used, resulting in a copy rather than a restoration. To cope with the numbers, cable cars have been installed to lift the visitors swiftly up to the wall high above the pass. Toboggan runs bring them down even more swiftly, and the wall and its surroundings have become a mass of souvenir stalls, cafes and resturants, arcades and photo shops.
A Great Wall museum sits nearby, above the vast coach and car-park. The museum is actually very good, although always crowded (less so in winter) as is the adjoining Great Wall cinema.
Badaling is much derided by many, especially Western, visitors because of the crass and unsympathetic over-commercialisation of the area, but there are signs that the authorities are waking up to the situation. Newspaper commentaries, both foreign and domestic, are invariably scathing and this is becoming a headache for the government. There have been recent rumbles from UNESCO about the World Heritage Listing of a number of key Chinese sites, including the Great Wall (and, incidentally, the Forbidden City). The appearance of the Great Wall on the World Heritage in Danger LIst would be a crushing embarrassment for the government and the Beijing authorities in the lead up to the Olympics, so more action can be expected in the near future. Even many Chinese now prefer to visit the Great Wall at Huanghuacheng and Mutianyu, but both of these locations are suffering the same fate of improper restoration, over-commercialisation and insufficient funding of proper, useful tourist facilities.
If you want to help keep the pressure on for a more appropriate approach to the conservation of the Great Wall, you could join the International Friends of the Great Wall. See their website at http://www.wildwall.org.

Despite its bad reputation, few people realise that there are still original unrestored and semi-restored parts of the Great Wall very close to Badaling, making it worth a visit here. It does require the ability to climb hundreds of metres up tracks, but that makes it all the more worthwhile. One particularly atractive section is the spur wall 5km south of Badaling at Shiguan (by Junction 16 of the Badaling Expressway) and this can be combined with a walk up the old road to Badaling, which, quite remarkably, is very little used and still manages to maintain an old world feel, with nice villages. The approach to the Great Wall is from the 'China' side, and the looming presence of the Wall as it sweeps down both sides of the valley make this an attractive walk in the late afternoon when the wall is silhouetted against the afternoon sky. The scale of the valey makes the visitors on the Wall 'disappear'.

The valley leading up to Badaling is worth exploring, as are the short, steep side valleys all along it.
The expressway dominates the landscape, but if you treat this as part of the education of the strategic importance of the valley even today, it all makes it part of the day out. The original road, travelled by Younghusband, Fleming, Lattimore and others, still winds its way up alongside the riverbed. With China's rapid development, this road was never expanded - the leap was made straight from this byway to a six-lane highway. Alongside, one of the main railways runs north towards Zhanghjiakou and eventually north through Inner Mongolia and Ulanbaatar to Moscow. It is still a joy to ride the train through this stark and forbidding pass on the way to Inner Mongolia or Shanxi.
South of Badaling is the small village of Shiguan, and further south, and out of sight, the fort of Juyongguan - a less frequented but spectacular fortress often missed by the tourist coaches.
Badaling is not the best place to see the Great Wall, and although it is a fortress rather than part of the Wall, Juyongguan is more authentic.
You can find the wilder Wall near Badaling and with a little bit of a walk you can find friendly and hospitable locals who won't try to sell you everything in sight. If all else fails and you are a sociologist or interested in sustainable tourism, Badaling is a fascinating education in mass tourism and the dynamic of groups experiencing Dean MacCannell's tourist "experience".

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:There are still parts of the wilder Wall to find at Badaling
  • Cons:You have to look for them!
  • In a nutshell:It's not as bad as they say!
  • Last visit to Badalingzhen: Nov 2004
  • Intro Updated Nov 28, 2004
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Reviews (2)

Comments (2)

  • victorwkf's Profile Photo
    Sep 29, 2006 at 3:14 AM

    Nice tips on the great wall. I will be at beijing next month for a meeting, but unfortunately i do not have time to go for sightseeing :(

  • filipdebont's Profile Photo
    Mar 1, 2005 at 3:14 PM

    Interesting tips on the Great Wall - I visited the Great Wall in Mutianyu

mke1963

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