I went to the Great Wall on July 14, I took around 200 photos, it has taken me this long to go through them in addition to going many other places and taking hundreds of other pictures. I then further confused the whole process but editing these photos out of order, I’m sorry, next time I will do better!!
So the title Great or Long Wall is no exaggeration, perhaps a small understatement. When you think Great Wall you think of a slim winding brick structure that follows and tops a series of connected mountains, and you would be right; then you get there… and it is so much more. I was told by someone who actually read the signs on the way up that we had essentially climbed two kilometers of stairs, straight up. At one point I actually thought, “why could I not climb to the top of the Vatican, it has an end.” I was convinced that there was in fact no end to these stairs, and that they continued into infinitum. I was not the only person who believed this.
I think it is clear to see from everyone’s posture that it was a grueling crawl. At one point I told one of the teachers that together we would crawl up the wall, I think she was too wiped out to laugh. I decided the best method was to go slow and steady, not stopping and not speeding up. I think it was a good plan, I actually made it up before some others who had started before me.
Before you get to the stairs that actually take you onto the wall proper (see above) there is a series of landings that are rather deceiving, you think that you are coming to the end only to be greeted my more stairs. Finally I thought I saw a glimpse of the wall its self, I yelled down to my compatriots, “there is an end.” There was an echo down the mountain, “there’s an end!!” We only thought it was the end… at least it was a ramp.
When we came out the other side this is one of the many wonders we saw…
As soon as we walked through the archways there was a sense of triumph and levity. That faded as we realized that the Great Wall is actually a series of ramps connect by a series of stairs. I think that this photo captures that mood.
We made our way across the wall, passing though the crenelated towers, watching the tiny distant mountains change and stay the same. That seems to be a theme, it was timeless, the only key to the outside world was the people on the wall; even then some of the people who had made the Wall their home had become like the Wall its self encapsulated in timelessness. Like they where some how removed from the time and space that we inhabited and that we could only interact through tears in time.
I think a better translation of 長城 would be “Eternal Wall.” Perhaps I am too interested in the metaphysical but looking back I feel that while it is true that it is a great wall but to walk on it is as if time ceased. When you look out time is not counted in the linear seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, millennia, but time is counted in how you react to it, what you personally take away from your personal experience. “Eternal Wall” captures the wall, the environment, the individual and the lack there of.
All of that said, after we had passed through a couple of towers we decided that they where all more or less the same and no matter where you looked the mist was the same, we took a break on the tower.
After playing around for a while and having a bit of a rest we decided that it was time to head back to the bus. I had the great idea of wanting to see some different scenery, another student seconded my motion. There is this idea that the wall is an impenetrable obstacle however it is pierced in many places but only on the “China side” by stairs that lead down and then out onto a stone path that runs parallel to it. This is where we decided to exit the Wall.
We followed the path until it became yet another set of stairs, we had our doubts but decided to press on. Again it was as if time had been robbed from us. We walked and walked but the scenery stayed the same.
We discovered a wonderful place on out decent, the curious rock collection. It was a free museum that was at one point must have been someone’s residence. It was amazing, the house hugged the side of the mountain and descended along with it. Level room where connected by descending corridors. Each new room was filled with all variety of rock.
There where was a small collection of different bamboo species, scholars’ rocks, and a small cave that was oddly lit with red and green light. There was also a small creek with a pond, and a small pavilion that was being renovated.
I have to say that with out the Peculiar Rock Museum the trip would have been incomplete. The museum added a delicate human touch to the Wall experience. The two places seemed removed from each other in time and place but they still manages to function harmoniously together yet separate. It was to see wonder after wonder.
The wall was to be removed from the human world in a meditative state, seeing the eternal wall and landscape stretch out before you and suddenly come to enlightenment. The you must come out the other side and return to the human world, this rock garden is the place that you come back to, timeless in it’s own way and bridges the gap between the finite and the infinite. If one had the opportunity one could draw many parallels between the quest for enlightenment and the journey from the bottom of the mountain where you know nothing of the journey that lies before you but willing to undertake the challenge. As you start to climb the stairs at first it is difficult but manageable then slowly becomes almost unbearably difficult cause you to want to give up. However you persist (or die on the side of the mountain) and when you get to the top most of the difficulties of getting there drip away, leaving calm and satisfaction. When it is time to return you take a different way back because nothing will ever be the same, and hopefully what you just learned can mix harmoniously with all the other experiences of your life and allow you to live simultaneously in both.
Moving right along, I had a great time at said wall, it was grueling but phenomenal. I wanted to take a nap afterward but was unable to, I was too occupied with my journey to sleep.
Here is me triumphant on the wall.