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古北口Gubeikou (the Old Northern Pass), sandwich between 山海关Shanhaiguan (Shanhai Pass) and 居庸关Juyongguan (Juyong Pass), was historically an important strategic pass. Successive military leaders from the 北齐Northern Qi dynasty (550 - 559), which had conscripted 1,800,000 men to construct 1500km of the Great Wall on its northern borders that included sections of this area, onward had given this corner a special status. It is the most accessible passage through the 燕山脉Yanshan mountain range that runs east to west, blocking the entire eastern section of northeast China.  During the 元朝Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), this was the must-pass gap between Mongolia and the China's interior. Likewise, during the 清朝Qing dynasty (1644-1911), this area must be passed between Manchuria and Beijing, which is a mere 100km south. And it was through this pass that the Manchu troops walked through without a battle to set up the Qing dynasty. As late as the last century, during the 民国Republican Era (1912-1949) and amid the civil war period, the Japanese came down to China from Manchuria and met resistance here (1933).  Heavy fighting was concentrated on the 蟠龙山Panlongshan section of the Great Wall, which sits on the eastern part of the Yanshan mountain. Today, there is a stele placed in the back of the town as a memorial to the soldiers who died during the resistance.

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NEW -- July 21, 2010

The beautiful city of Suzhou crisscrossed with narrow water canals

古北口镇图片Gubeikou Town Pictures

  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town

    The entrance to the town right off the national highway.

  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town

    Gubeikou is a very small town consist of a few roads.

  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town
  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town

    One of the new blocks in the back of the town. The town is changing rapidly, like much of China. More and more roads are being paved with concrete. And new concrete houses line its sides.

  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town
  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town
  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town
  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town
  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town
  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town
  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town
  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town

    This is the back of the town by the foot of the mountains where the 蟠龙山长城 Panlongshan Wall is.

  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town
  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town
  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town

    There is a memorial obelisk nearby commemorating the locals' resistance to the invading Japanese armies.

  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town

    I was searching in this treeful mountain for the path up the Wall. I climbed several peaks in vain. All I can see is the Wall on the other side.

  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town

    A house I came across in the valley while I was searching for a path up the Wall.

  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town

    I had a nice conversation with this local. Here the old man was preparing the meal for his pigs.

  • Picture of 古北口镇 Gubeikou Town

    The road out of the valley. In the distance is the 卧虎山长城 Wohushan Wall. I spent more than 2 hours trying to find a way up the 蟠龙山长城 Panlongshan Wall, from where I would move toward the 司马台长城 Simatai Wall. Having no luck and getting late, I decided to head back to town. This turned out to be better because I was able to climb the Wohushan Wall, which is a better wall than Panlongshan's.

image of a group of Mongolian gersimage of dunes near Baotou city

Enjoy the wide 希拉穆仁草原Xilamuren grassland, the huge dunes of 响沙湾Xiangshawan, and the ancient Wall of the Qin state in 内蒙古Neimenggu (Inner Mongolia).

上海 shanghai skyline苏州园林 suzhou gardernUygur lady and tourist boat in 天池 Tianchi

Selected pictures from my 3-month travel through China during the summer of 2006.

image of Jiayuguan fort

嘉峪关Jiayuguan (Jiayu Pass) - the lone fort at the edges of the desolate and bare Gobi desert. It is at once both a timeless symbol of human's uncompromising reach and an otherworldly mirage.

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In the past, Gubeikou had been called 虎北口Hubeikou because of the 卧虎山Wohushan (Crouching Tiger Mountain) to the west. During the 唐朝Tang dynasty (618 - 907), it got the name 虎白口Hubaikou. From then on, every successive era gave it a name. Its present name was set during the 明朝Ming dynasty (1368-1644), who built the 蟠龙山Panlongshan and 卧虎山Wohushan (Crouching Tiger Mountain) sections of the 万里长城Wanli Changcheng (Great Wall) that rides on the ridges of the two mountains going east and west, respectively.

Gubeikou consists of several sections of the Great Wall - Wohushan, Panlongshan, Jinshanling, and Simatai. There is one short restricted section reserved for the military; all others are linked together, except Wohushan. Beijing municipality controls all the sections but Jinshanling, which is part of 河北Hebei province. The 潮河Chaohe river runs north and south through Yanshan mountain, and passes Gubeikou on its west side by Wuhushan mountain.  The river's southern end is the 密云水库Miyun reservoir, which supplies much of the drinking water to 北京市Beijing city.

While I was in Gubeikou town (2006), I did not planned on staying there; the place was mainly my immediate starting point for scaling the mountains and get onto the Wall, then hike to its eastern end at Simatai. Nothing, of course, was that simple. In most of the places that I travelled to, I did not planned them; if I did it would not be in great details. I depend mostly on my detail road map book of China and the local maps to find whatever is there. And I just go. So while I was in the small town, I searched for a way to get up onto the Wall. I climbed a few hills like a cat, and no matter how much of the Wall I saw, it was out of my reach. After 3-4 hours of up and down and across the cornfield valleys of these densly vegetated hills, I gave up.  By now it was late afternoon, so I decided it was better to stick around in the small quiet town.

This part of the town was opposite the ticket entrance to the Wohushan Great Wall section and right besides the 101 nation highway connecting 北京市Beijing city and 承德Chengde. Besides the road is its entrance guarded by a wood arch to welcomes new arrivals. Inside are mostly new low block-like concrete buildings and paved roads. I rented a room, dropped off some of my stuffs and went immediately to climb Wohushan Great Wall. I only had about 2 hours of good light. But worst was my lack of film — only several frames of color film and a few rolls of black and white, mostly 35mm. While in Chengde I had used up my rolls and could not get more. Early next morning, my guesthouse's owner, Mr Pang, led me to a narrow stone stairway that leads up to the Panlongshan Great Wall; It was at the back of the town, somewhat hidden by trees and shrubs, but the path appeared to be a collective secret - something not allowed to reveal to outsiders.  Continue reading

trucks on the desert road

Pictures I took while on a bus traveling through the sandy deserts of 甘肃Gansu on my way to 嘉峪关Jiayuguan.

Travel Information

Getting There:

From 北京市Beijing city's 东直门汽车站Dongzhimen bus station, take the bus to 密云县Miyun county. From the county, take a minivan to Gubeikou. The Gubeikou town is right beside the 101 national highway, connecting Beijing city and 承德Chengde. So any bus to Chengde will also pass by its door.

Accomodations:

There are a lot of guesthouses in the town. Most are in the low-budget category. However, there is one that is meant for the comfort-seeker. It is right on the entrance to the 卧虎山Wohushan (Crouching Tiger Mountain) Great Wall. But I heard that it is always booked — by famous psychologists, mystic students, and celebrities. So, good luck.