The Longquanyu Great Wall is about 20km north of the Ming Tombs, and was constructed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD). The Longquanyu Great Wall is the beginning of a long, uninterrupted stretch of Great Wall that passes through Huanghuacheng, Jiankou, and Mutianyu.
Parts of the Great Wall at Longquanyu have been repaired, and the hike will also take us along unrepaired ‘wild’ sections, making this hike a great way to see both repaired and unrepaired Great Wall.
We’ll begin the hike on a repaired section. On the wall here we’ll have long views of the mountains and valleys to the north and west, and looking east we’ll be able to see all the wall that we’ll be hiking on later.
The first repaired section is flat for the most part, but there are two very steep descents, including a steep dive down into a valley—not a lot of fun if you are not good with heights.
We follow the Great Wall up into the mountains on the other side of the valley, hiking on to the first of the unrepaired sections we’ll pass on the hike.
A highlight of this section is a special spot where the wall meets a cliff that forms a natural barrier, the steps of the wall leading up to a sheer cliff. It makes a good spot for a short break, but there’s not much room for sitting. We’ll offer the option to climb up for a look, and then backtrack a little to take a hillside detour, walking through chestnut orchards to get back to the Great Wall.
This next part of the hike follows the last little bit of unrestored ‘wild’ wall in the area. We’ll make a short, steep climb up on the wall, and then follow a path along a relatively flat section that is overgrown by trees and other foliage. After about 1km we’ll be back on to restored Great Wall. To get around another cliff we’ll follow a thin dirt trail down the hill, into the valley, and then past the remnants of a water pass as we head for the Little West Lake.
From here the walking is flat and easy, following park trails over boardwalks and bridges and alongside the Little West Lake, a reservoir formed by a dam.
We’ll head out to the carpark to meet our bus, and take a short drive to the restaurant where we’ll have our late lunch.
Learn to make yuan xiao
After our late lunch we’ll make some yuan xiao, the traditional snack to eat for Lantern Festival. The restaurant boss will give a demonstration, and then it will be your turn. How many of them you get to eat will depend on how fast you learn!
What’s a yuan xiao? It’s a small ball of glutinous rice flour that encases a sweet, sour, or savoury filling. After the small ball is filled it’s boiled for a little while to warm it, and then served in a bowl with some of the soupy water. Tasty! And the tradition says that the round balls and the round bowls used to serve them represent togetherness, and will bring you happiness, harmony, and good luck for the upcoming year.
How do you get the filling into the middle? That’s the trick. And you’ll learn it!