Found on a narrow section of coastal plain in northeastern Hebei, the formidable Shanhai Pass extends to a length of 4,770 meters, a height of 11.6 meters, and a thickness of around 10 meters. This “Mountain Sea Pass” projects impenetrability as a fortification against foreign invasion.
Regarded as a strategic priority, Shanhaiguan’s builders increased its strength, size and complexity up until General Qi Jiguang’s “brick renovation” in the 16th century. The Pass features 4 entrances to each direction and 7 castles.
As a military icon, Shanhaiguan’s history includes both ancient and modern accounts. In ancient times, the Pass was the well-known point of entry for the Manchu invasion ushering in one of the longest lasting dynasties in China’s history, the Qing. In modern times, Shanhaiguan was the site of China’s stand against Imperial Japan in 1933. This devastating battle left Shanhaiguan with numerous scars from shelling and gunfire.
Today, visitors come to experience the one of a kind military history and application of Shanhaiguan. From the gates of the “First Pass Under Heaven” to the eastern terminus point of the Great Wall, Shanhaiguan serves as a brilliant example of ancient Chinese engineering, military strategy and manpower.
Nearby Shanhaiguan are the Great Wall Museum, Laodao Ocean Park and Jiao ShanPark.
“The Old Dragonhead” is the Ming Wall’s eastern terminus. Plunging 20 meters into the Bohai Sea approximately 5 kilometers south of Shanhaiguan. This ancient fortress stands as the only point in the Great Wall where mountain, sea, city and pass meet. These features made Laolongtou an important strategic point, but also subjected it to attack and destruction, most notably in 1900 at the end of Ming dynasty, when the Eight-Nation Alliance devastated Laolongtou.
Though most of the original Wall at Laolongtou rests in ruins, an extensive rebuilding effort in the 1980’s returned much of the Old Dragon Head’s luster. Today, visitors enjoy many of the rebuilt features of Laolongtou, including the venerated Chenghai Pavilion. This two-story tall place of worship has a long history with many imperial and literary figures of China.
4 kilometers west of Shanhaiguan, Jiaoshan is the first mountain crossed by the Great Wall as it heads west. This “Corner Mountain” features steep ascents and beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.
Benefitting from the “Love China, Rebuild the Great Wall” campaign of the 1980’s, Jiaoshan has received several years worth of renovations. The result is rebuilt sections and improvements to visibility and accessibility.
Partially submerged beneath the Panjiakou Reservoir, this section of the Great Wall draws visitors with its gorgeous scenery and intriguing presence as part of the “Chinese Atlantis.” For the 50 or so adventurous souls that choose to take a more intimate view of Panjiakou, diving has been an option. Divers have proclaimed that, “It’s so up close and personal… that it hardly makes sense to walk it in the open air anymore.”
Known as “the first mountain traversed by the Wall,” Jinshanling Peak is located within the city limits of Chengde approximately 130 kilometers from Beijing. Founded during the Ming Dynasty, this “Golden Mountain Peak” of the Great Wall, was built and commanded by the celebrated Chinese hero, General Qi Jiguang for over 15 years. Today, visitors often hike the 10 kilometer trail between Jinshanling and Simatai.
Renowned for the beauty of its surrounding natural scenery, “the Green Mountain Pass” of Qingshanguan is noted as the only surviving dam to be found along the Great Wall. Although this section of the Great Wall has never been renovated, many parts of Qingshanguan continue to stand despite the destructiveness of centuries of war.
Imperial Summer Palace
Enclosed by a 10-kilometer-long wall, the Imperial Summer Palace boasts of vast gardens and parks surrounding the Main Palace, which consists of an elegant blend of courtyards, halls and tall pines. Other features include the Misty Rain Tower and the Wenjin Pavilion. UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site 1994.
For those seeking the beauty and relaxation of the ocean shores, Beidaihe offers many amenities along its 22.5-kilometer stretch of the Boahi Sea Coast. Beidaihe’s seaside resort is a popular option for visitors.
The Bashang Grasslands on the border between Hebei and Inner Mongolia gives visitors the opportunity to experience the plains of northern China up close. Hiking, camping and BBQ are some of the favorite activities in this serene prairie.
Eastern Qing Tombs
This Final resting place for 5 Qing Dynasty emperors is found approximately 125 kilometers northeast of Beijing. The enormity of the Eastern Qing Tombs is notable in both its physical size (80 square kilometers) as well as its historical and aesthetic magnitude.
Adjacent to the Summer Palace, Waiba Temple is a complex of temples and monuments honoring the spiritual figures of China including the 23.5 meter tall wooden statue of Kuan Yin, goddess of compassion.
Changli Golden Beach
Along the northeastern coast of Hebei, the Changli Golden Beach offers many excellent opportunities for seaside leisure. The shores here get their moniker “golden beach” from the soft yellow sand that shine in the sunlight.