The Juyongguan Great Wall is a fortification at the southern end of the Badaling Pass, the main pass through the mountains north of Beijing. The Great Wall seen here today dates back the Ming Dynasty, with the Cloud Platform kept over from the preceding Yuan Dynasty. The Great Wall makes a circle in the mountains on either side of the pass, blocking the way through to Beijing.
Isn’t this a really touristy section of Great Wall?
Yes, it is. But!
This winter gives an opportunity to add this part of the Great Wall to your collection without experiencing extreme crowding. Normally there are fewer visitors in winter due to the cold, and this winter the restrictions on entry to Beijing should mean there are not as many tour groups visiting. (On our scouting trip we saw hardly anybody.)
Why would you want to visit the Juyongguan Great Wall?
- Add the Juyongguan Great Wall to the list of Great Wall hikes you’ve done while here in Beijing
- It’s of the three main Ming Dynasty Great Wall passes, and was the last line of defense before the walls of Beijing (back when Beijing did have walls)
- See the Cloud Platform
- Exercise your calf muscles
- Add on the Shuiguan Great Wall for two Great Wall walks in one day
We’ll walk the loop of Great Wall that surrounds Juyongguan and the Cloud Platform, first hiking steep stairs to the high point on the west side before descending even steeper stairs to the North Gate. We’ll then go up and along the slightly lower east side, coming down to the South Gate before finishing with a look at the South Gate and the Cloud Platform.
During the hike we’ll get views of the Badaling Pass, the main pass through the mountains north of Beijing. Towards the north we’ll spy the Shuiguan Great Wall and Badaling Great Wall up in the hills. The Badaling Great Wall blocks the northern end of the pass. From Juyuongguan we can see the southern end of the pass and the flat plain that leads to Beijing city.
We went out for a walk here already, with an eye on ways to make it more of a hike. No luck on that, unfortunately—there are quite a lot of cameras, and no gaps in the battlements. But all the stairs make it a very good workout, and the full loop is nearly 7km long.
More about Juyongguan
The Great Wall seen here today was built in 1368, the first year of the Ming Dynasty. Juyongguan is one of the three main Ming Dynasty fortified passes (AKA guān / 关); the other two being Jiayuguan (in the far west) and Shanhaiguan (where the Great Wall meets the sea).
The pass in the mountains here is one of the easiest roads through the mountains north of Beijing. It’s obvious why the Ming Dynasty would have wanted to stop armies coming through here to attack their capital—from Juyongguan it’s a flat 50km to the Forbidden City.
Juyongguan was fortified well before the Ming Dynasty, though. Other states and dynasties also located their capital roughly where Beijing is nowadays.
One of those dynasties was the Yuan (1271-1368), who had their winter capital (called Dadu/Khanbaliq) right in the middle of where Beijing is now. Yuan Dynasty emperors would pass through Juyongguan on the way to Shangdu (AKA Xanadu), which was their summer capital.
One of the main features at Juyongguan is the Cloud Platform, which was built near the end of the Yuan Dynasty.
The Cloud Platform looks like a huge gate, but it was actually a base for several stupas and part of a temple. The platform has a white marble exterior and is covered with Buddhist carvings and inscriptions. Like much of the Great Wall it fell into disrepair during the Qing Dynasty. In 1961 the Cloud Platform was made a Nationally Protected Site.
Shuiguan Great Wall
To make sure you get enough exercise, we’ll add on a walk at the Shuiguan Great Wall.
Most of the Shuiguan Great Wall is closed right now, but if we’re lucky with guards and cameras and gates we’ll be able to hike about 3-4km up and back down. (If we’re unlucky then it’s more like 1km. We’re feeling lucky, though.)
We’ll first get lunch at a restaurant near the Shuiguan Great Wall, and then we’ll stroll over to the ticket office. We’ll hike up and down the north side—very steep stairs to start, and then a flatter section that offers excellent views towards all the wall at Badaling.