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Juyong Guan ........
Badaling 八达岭 (Eight Prominent Peaks, also interpreted as Peak to leading all Directions) sector, located at Yanqing County 70 km northwest of Beijing, is the first section of the Great Wall to be opened to tourists. There was an older and incomplete wall here during Warring States Period (476 BC - 221 BC). However, the wall we are seeing was built in 1571 and was repaired in 1957. It is considered the best preserved, being the hallmark of Ming Dynasty wall construction. It became a United Nations world cultural heritage in 1987.|
The section is about 5 km long with 19 watchtowers. The wall extends from peak to peak and is made of rectangular slabs, standing eight to ten meters high, six meters wide at the base and five meters wide at the ramparts, hence allowing ten soldiers or five horses to stand abreast. Along the wall are observation platforms every 500 meters and they also serve as sentry posts and storage for weapons and food. Many sections of the wall were in desolate places, and food and quarters were supplied via narrow paths to the wall where they are pulled over the side in baskets.
The left part of the Badaling wall is steeper but gives a better scenery of the wall. To the east of Badaling is a 2 meter high rock said to be where Dowager Empress Cixi looked towards Beijing in reflection to her previous grand court life-style compared to her then 1900 distress in her fleeing to Xian to escape the Eight Nations Allied Army. This is the rock mentioned earlier, called “Looking to Beijing Rock”, with a monument for foreign contributors to the reconstruction of the Great Wall in the 1980s.
Juyong Guan 居庸關 (Common Dwelling Pass), 10 km before Badaling, is the sector I like best because of its historical significance. Juyong Pass guards a 100 meter wide 20 km long and deep gully 60 km northwest of Beijing on the same railway line just before Badaling. It was first mentioned in a second century BC philosophical book called HuaiNanzi 淮南子as one of the great nine passes in the competing kingdoms of China. Juyong Pass was also said to have been used in the Qin Dynasty when the First Emperor, Qin Shihuangdi started the Great Wall.
The surrounding the valley area was considered one of the Eight Sceneries of Yanjing (ancient name for Beijing) during the Jin Dynasty (AD 1115-1234). In autumn the valley is colored red by the maple leaves. Juyong Pass has a architecturally unique marbled Cloud Terrace 雲塔 (Yuntai) complex built in 1345, with a semi-hexagonal arched gateway through it. The ceiling and walls of the terrace have interesting Buddhist inscriptions and carvings, one called “A Record of Charitable and Pious Pagoda Building” featuring six languages (Sanskrit, Tibetan, Mongolian, Western Xia, Uighur and Han).
Three stone pagodas atop the Cloud Terrace were built by the last Yuan Emperor, but were soon burnt down with the fall of the Yuan Dynasty in 1368. Hence, the Cloud Terrace supporting the three white pagodas and built across a street was also called "Crossing Street Tower" 過街塔 (Guojieta). A temple called TaiAn Si 太安寺 (Great Peace Temple) was built to replace the pagodas, but was accidentally burnt down in 1702. At the Juyong area is a Northern Song Dynasty temple honoring five heroes of great strength who helped to dig the gully.
A tomb of the Eastern Han period (25-221) unearthed in Inner Mongolia showed a wall painting of a noble on horseback at Juyong Pass, showing Juyongguan as a wooden bridge-like structure with the word “JuyongGuan”.
The name of Juyong Pass is interesting because the character Yong 庸 indicated a common and inferior status, hence Juyong 居庸 means common dwelling, a name not complimentary to its status of protecting the Ming and Qing Imperial capital. It is believed that the name was given during the much earlier Qin Dynasty when this Great Wall site had plain dwellings for numerous conscripted laborers building the wall. At that time Yanjing (Old Beijing) was not considered as important as the Qin capital at Xianyang.
In A.D. 916 Beijing became the capital of the Khitan tribe, which called itself the Liao Kingdom. In 1122, the Jurchens or Nuchens attacked Beijing through the Juyong Pass. To the invaders’ good luck, there was a landslide at the pass which killed many defenders, allowing the Jurchens to overwhelm them and to take Beijing, which became the capital of the Jurchens under the Jin Dynasty. The Liao Empress had to escape to the north from Beijing via the Gubeikou Pass.
In 1213, the Mongol leader, Genghis Khan 成吉思汗, attempted an attack on Beijing, but was repulsed by the Jin defenders at Juyongguan, who poured molten iron on the gate of the fortress. However. Genghis Khan had a general called Tsabar, who was his emissary to the Jin capital and who knew about a little used path to bypass the Juyong Pass. Using this path at night, the Mongol horsemen in a single file broke through and surprised the Juyong Pass defenders from the rear.
With the retreat of the Mongols in 1368, Ming General Xuda quickly secured the Juyong Pass and started reconstruction of the wall to prevent further Mongol attacks. He built four defensive walls, two circular and two straight across the pass with an extra wall at Gubeikou. The Ming wall construction at Beijing lasted from 1368 till 1582.
In 1449, the 20 year old Ming Zhengtong Emperor正統 was gullible enough to allow his eunuch tutor, Wang Zhen王振 , to plan an attack on the Mongols, with the Emperor in lead. The corrupt eunuch’s plan was actually to divert the Emperor to visit his own nearby native village rather than to go to battle. Without any military experience, the glory seeking eunuch caused a military disaster ending with two Ming Emperors contending for the throne.
Half a million Ming troops with the Emperor passed through Juyong Pass to an ignominious defeat at the battle of Tumupu土木堡, where the Emperor was himself captured by the Mongol leader Esen也先 , but he was later released to cause conflict between the captured Emperor and his newly installed successor. The Zhengtong Emperor was re-instated by his supporters as the TianShun Emperor天順in a coup in 1457.
Again in 1549, another Mongol leader, Altan Khan阿拉坦汗 , attacked Beijing but knowing the difficulty of going through Juyong Pass, he opted instead to go further east and broke through the Gubeikou Pass and then took Juyong Pass from the rear. Advancing up to the gates of Beijing he laid waste the suburbs before retreating north to the Ordos.
Towards the end of the Ming Dynasty, the peasant rebel leader, Li Zicheng, attacked Juyong Pass in 1644. Dissatisfied with the Ming Court corruption, the military surrendered to the rebel forces and allowed Li Zicheng to capture Beijing, precipitating the suicide of the last Ming Emperor at Coal Hill, now called Beijing's Jingshan Park, just outside the Forbidden City.
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