In the Simatai village in northeastern Miyun, there is a delicate section of the Great Wall known as the Simatai Great Wall. It has its unique beauty with primitive simplicity, the vicissitude it experienced, loftiness, ruggedness and vitality. It is listed as a cultural heritage site by UNESCO.
Moving forward from the forth tower, you will see the stone single-side wall, with the length less than a hundred meters and the height of 3 meters, and two rows of arrow hole arranged on brick wall. It is worth mentioning is that the bricks of the upper eave is up to 57 cm, which marks the largest brick in this part of the Great Wall, and it shows the level of military workers firing bricks. Single-side wall is another architectural feature of the Simatai Great Wall, and is presented in different forms. On the east side of the twelfth tower, there are tens of meters of single-side wall (similar to parapet). From east fifteenth tower (Xiannv Tower) to the east sixteenth tower (Wangjing Tower), there are about 300-meter-long single-side wall roofed with bricks of the Great Wall with no arrow hole, and the locals call it "Tianqiao". It is safely to conduct that when ancestors were building this part of the Simatai Great Wall, they preserved architectural features of Ming Dynasty in different important maintenance period. For example, people can find out the architectural features of military camp in the Ming Dynasty Hongwu years (1373), single-side walls in Chenghua years(1465 a 1487), barrier walls and attached wall in Jiajing years (1545-1550), walls and hollow defending walls in Longqing the third year (AD 1569) to the mid-years of Wanli (AD 1587), etc. Therefore, this part of the Great Wall is also called the natural "Great Wall Museum", with a high historical and research value.
Along the long Great Wall, there are more than one water passes. But only the Simatai section and a few other has two lakes nearby. At the foot of the western side of the Wall, there is a 38℃ hot spring. What is fantastic is that dozens of meters away in the east, there is a freezingly cold spring. Feeling the power and magic of nature, local people named the two lakes ""Yuanyang Lake"" (double lakes). According to geological experts, the cold spring is connected to an underground river of Wuling Mountain. It took the water fifty years to travel from the mountain to current location. The volume of the spring therefore depends on the rainfall at Wuling Mountain fifty years ago. In 1997, Miyun government built some irrigation facilities to improve people's lives. The dam covers an area of 2.3 hectares with a capacity of 572000 cubic meters. The dam water is a mix of the water from the warm spring and the cold one. The Yuanyang Lake is so clean that one can see its bottom. The reflections of mountains, trees and Great Wall form a beautiful picture.
Because the lake is half hot and half cold, even in winter, the lake never freezes. It is veiled in mist which gets denser when it is colder. If you visit the Wall at this time, you can witness this amazing and unique view. Before the dam was built, there was a stone shed in which the outlet of the hot spring is located. The hot spring is surrounded by walls made of long black bricks and the bottom of the spring is covered in square bricks. The bricks are the same as those of the Great Wall. According to archeological documents, the shed was used as a place for bathing for the soldiers building the Great Wall. People living nearby still have bath in the shed until the building of the dam. The bath is really a pamper, helping people relax and curing rheumatism and skin diseases.
Local legend has it that most of the soldiers building the Great Wall were from southern China and they could not get used to local climate, got skin diseases and could not work. One day, two springs came out from the two sides of the canyon. One was cold and the other was warm. The soldiers used the water to wash their faces and cured the wounds on their face within just a few days. They were thrilled and used the water for bath and cured the disease rapidly. They believed it was the water from the heaven, suggesting they put more efforts in building the Wall. As a result, the project was completed fast and well.
Another legend has it that Simatai was very dry and the land was barren. People could only plant some corns and sorghum. Once Liu Bowen visited Wuling Mountain to check the landscape. It was in midsummer, Liu and other officials were half way up the mountain. When they had a rest beside a huge rock, they felt a refreshing breeze. Liu wrote six characters on the rock with the spring water as ink to praise the breeze: ""coolest spot on Wuling Mountain."" Throwing the brush away, he said: ""where the water drops, there will be a lake with hot and cold water for local people.” Where the water on the brush dropped is exactly where the lake is located now. The six magical characters are inscripted on the rock.
In 2002, to use water resources efficiently, the Administration Office of Simatai Great Wall cut off the water to build the dam. The project aims to enable a better use of the spring for irrigation of the trees, crops and tourism. Since then, water-covered area in the scenic spot was enlarged to 6.8 hectares. Visitors can take boat on the lake to appreciate the ancient town.
The twelfth tower has five windows and it is also known as the General Tower. It is 2570 meters away from the parking lot in the scenic area. It is the most delicate signal tower among all along the Simatai Great Wall. Here soldiers can have a good sight and its location makes it quite hard to conquer. Therefore, it was used as a command post. Meanwhile, it is also an important liaison point of the Simatai castle.
The tower is delicately built. Its foundation is formed with bricks strictly stuck together and the top part is fully enclosed with polished bricks. In the tower, there are two brick arches, three passages and ten smaller arches. The central room is where the general commanded the troops. The room was defended by many soldiers. Now if you sing in the tower, you can hear the echo. Above the window, there is a delicate wooden U-bar to hold the curtain. On the pillar at the door of the tower, we can see the pattern of double passion flowers. Even the eaves are made of five layers of bricks forming double ridges. The smaller tower for observing the battlefield on the top of this tower is bigger and more delicate than those of other signal towers. Many details of the signal tower remind us that it is exquisite and even elegant as if it is not a defense facility but a fairy house.
Wangjing Tower is the sixteenth tower in the east with an altitude of 986 meters. It is the tallest signal tower of the Simatai Great Wall. Its altitude is the highest among Beijing cultural heritages. It stands on the summit of Mount Tiger. When looked from afar, it is like an awl piercing the sky. Local legend has it that standing on the tower, one can vaguely see Beijing. Beijing's lights at night are also visible on the tower. That's how the tower got its name (Wangjing means looking at Beijing in distance). On the tower, one can feel that it dwarfs hills nearby. Looking to the east, one can enjoy the mist and snow; looking to the west, one can see the "crouching dragon and tiger"; looking to the north, one can enjoy Mount Yan covered in trees; to the south, the dam is like a pearl.
Mounting the tower is not easy. A visitor wrote a poem:"The mountain is like a ladder to heaven; the bridge crosses the sea of clouds. Just like a fairy, the tower is difficult to mount." Now, the tower is too aged for adventure and it has undergone renovation twice. To ensure your safety and the safety of the tower, we hope that you do not try to ascend it but appreciate its magnificence from afar instead.
When we talk about the tower, we always mention Wang Yeqiu, the then head of State Administration of Cultural Heritage. He is a pioneer of China's protection of cultural heritages and his contribution should always be remembered. He has deep bonds with the Great Wall and all cultural heritages. In October, 1987, the families of Wang, accompanied by Mr. Luo Zhewen, scattered his bone ash on the mountain top where the tower is located. Wang devoted his whole life to the tower, which inspired all committeed to protection of the tower now.
A few steps to the east of the thirteenth tower, there is a big cave that links the two sides of the Great Wall. It is known as Kulong Mountain (hole mountain). Because the Great Wall arches over the cave, this section is also named the Great Wall in the air. The northern opening of the cave is divided into two smaller openings which in legends are left by Erlangshen (a mighty god) when he tried to move the mountain.
When you ascend to the top of the Heavenly Ladder, you can see the Fairy Tower on the mountain top to the east. The signal tower’s foundation is 5.6 meters long and 4.7 meters wide. The tower has two windows. It is the “slimmest” signal tower. It stands on the summit like an elegant fairy.
Old men told us that it was extremely hard to build this section of the Great Wall. Because the ridge is very narrow and only allows people to stand on it. It was no doubt very hard to move all the stones and bricks needed. There was no place to pile these materials either. So how was the tower built? A story says that in a village not far from the tower, there was a handsome shepherd whose parents died and made his living by taking care of sheep. He was lonely and poor. So he became friends with the soldiers very soon and asked the soldiers to tell him some battle stories. The soldiers liked him and often gave him some steamed buns.
When they were building the Fairy Tower, many soldiers fell ill due to hard work and heat. There were not enough people to build the tower and it was not long before the deadline. If the project could not be completed on time, all of them would be punished. They were very anxious. The shepherd saw that and he also felt worried because he could not help these kind-hearted soldiers build the Wall. He decided to use the sheep to carry bricks without telling his boss. He also carried some bricks. After several rounds, many sheep died and he also got injured.
One day, his boss realized there was something wrong and came to look for the sheep. When the boss discovered what happened, he wanted to bit the shepherd but was stopped by the soldiers. The shepherd decided to stop working for the boss but join the soldiers to build the Wall and he applied to build this signal tower on his own. He stayed on the mountain day and night to build the tower. But he could only prepare the land for construction in the first month. One day, when he was taking a rest, the mountain top was suddenly veiled by cloud and mist. With the breeze, the bricks and stones moved automatically to the mountain top. When the shepherd woke, he surprisingly found that the foundation was in place.
The same thing happened in the following few days. Once, he pretended to sleep and peeped at the building. With a gentle breeze came a fairy waving her hands and the bricks were added to the foundation. The shepherd was so astonished that he forgot to pretend. Suddenly, the fairy flied close to him and said: “I know you are pretending. I come here to help you because I see you are an honest man of integrity and you did not give up in face of difficulty.”
The shepherd calmed himself down and said: “Thank you for helping me. Without your help, I cannot possibly finish building the tower before the due date. How can I pay back?”The fairy smiled and said:”I came to the human world to have some fun. I see that your work is too much and the scenery here is beautiful, so I help to you to build a tower here which I may also use as my palace.”
The shepherd was in ecstasy hearing that. He was determined to build the most elegant tower. At last, the tower was finished under the efforts of the two. Their affection for each other also grew and they fell in love with each other. However, this romance did not last long. The fairy was taken back to the heavenly court to be punished for going secretly to the human world. The shepherd sat on the tower and called the fairy’s name for thousands of times but she could not come back. And the shepherd also died from sorrow. His last words were that he would always wait for her on the tower. Therefore, the soldiers buried him at the foot of the cliff under the tower.
The heavenly ladder is 3160 meters away from the parking lot. The ladder is like a thumb pointing to the sky if tourists look from distance. The section of the Wall is like a ladder to the heaven and that is the reason why it got its name. The “ladder” is stone border wall with obstacle wall on the inner side. On the south of the obstacle walls are the stairs. The slope is as steep as 80 degrees. One has to use both his hands and feet to climb the “ladder” and both the grips and steps should be firm so that one can move up step by step. One have to look straightly to the front. If he looks backward or to the sides, he may feel dizzy and fall off the cliff.
It is said that the section from the Heavenly Ladder to Wangjing Tower was not in the plan because there is only cliff that common people cannot possibly walk on. But why is the section built anyway? The story is the following: Once an official was dispatched to inspect the project. He stopped his horse upon entering the Simatai village. He observed the mountains and shook his head.
He walked back and forth on the sections already built. And he murmured watching the eastern ridge: “No, the mountain now is like a sleeping dragon and sick tiger. It is beautiful in its shape but it has no soul.” The general in charge of building border facilities following the official came over and said: “Your Excellency, the defense facilities we built here are in line with the landscape. They are extremely strong and innovative. It is impossible for the enemies to break. If you think there is any flaw please point it out.” The official said that the wall is good but it does not cover the highest point in the east. This is not good for us in battles.
Secondly, the shape of the wall is not good. It is now like a dragon without head and tiger falling ill. You need to extend the wall to that ridge over there. He pointed at where Wangjing Tower is located. The general frowned and said it is so hard to just walk on that ridge let along building a wall. The official said angrily that being a general requires more than courage and the ability to fight but also intelligence. You can think of a way.
After the official left, the general felt very worried. He gathered his soldiers to come up with some ideas. After days of thinking, they finally settled the plan. Under the harsh circumstance, the soldiers carried out the plan with appropriate flexibility according to the actual landscape. In only several months, they finished the ladder-shaped wall. It is very convenient for the soldiers to ascend and descend. Against the outer side of the ladder, there are sub-walls like stairs to ensure the soldiers safety.
The heavenly ladder (Xiannv Tower and Wangjing Tower) is only 40 centimeters wide. The difficult project was accomplished at last. The soldiers felt that the Wall is now truly a part of the mountain. The Wall runs along the ridge to the sky and is no longer dull. Looking from the Simatai castle, the Wall is like a tiger guarding the capital, not conquerable. When the official came for inspection for the second time, he praised the general and the soldiers for their wisdom in building the wall according to local landscape and strengthening the defense. If one has the chance to standing under the Heavenly Ladder, he can feel how hard it was to build it.