The “10,000-mile-long wall” (万里长城), or the Great Wall of China as we know it, is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Every year, thousands of tourists flock to climb the stone stairs at Badaling, just outside of Beijing, with the more adventurous ones going for hikes along the ”wild” wall sections like Chenjiapu or Qinglongqiao.
The views from those hikes are beautiful indeed. But as you stand atop a 600-year-old wall fortress, contemplating the serpentine white lines that stretch for miles along mountain ridges, the question inevitably pops up: Does the Great Wall of China have a starting point? If so, where?
The answer lies in the small town of Shanhaiguan in Hebei province. Old Dragon’s Head is considered to be the start of the Great Wall, built during the Ming Dynasty, and it does resemble a dragon resting its weary head by the Bohai Sea. It served as a military fort, and a strategic defense from both land and sea attacks. Going down towards the sea, there are well-preserved remnants of the original wall, which was built using a mixture of glutinous rice syrup, earth, sand and lime.
Know Before You Go
Direct high-speed train from Beijing to Shanhaiguan takes about 2-3 hours. Local bus no.25 across from the train station goes directly to Laolongtou Scenic Area (20min).
North of the train station is Jiaoshan Great Wall section. Both areas can be visited within a day.