This photo was taken along the Badaling (八达岭) section of the Great Wall during my third visit to the Wall in September 2010. Many choose to avoid this section of the Great Wall, deriding it as too touristy and overdeveloped, but if you’re short on time, Badaling is perhaps one of the easiest sections to get to, especially if you don’t have your own transportation.
The Badaling section of the Great Wall was built in 1505 and has been restored on several occasions over the centuries. It was first opened to tourists in 1957 and has become the most visited section of the Great Wall, attracting several thousands of tourists per day. Over 500 heads of state have visited Badaling since China re-established diplomatic relations with the rest of the world in the 1970s, including the current US president Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II.
The Great Wall has become one of the national symbols of China and a source of pride for many Chinese citizens. Chairman Mao (毛主席) once claimed that you cannot consider yourself a true hero until you have visited the Great Wall: 不到长城非好汉. If you’ve ever walked from the No.8 North Tower down to the No.12 Tower (and back) on a hot summer’s day, you’ll know that it takes guts, stamina and a lot of willpower to succeed.
Luckily for me, I didn’t have to deal with hungry tigers, Tyrannosaurus Rexes, rolling boulders or spiked walls but walking (or should that be climbing?) along that stretch of the Great Wall was a heroic feat in itself.