Shuiguan Great Wall and Qinglongqiao
Photos from the Great Wall between Shuiguan and Qinglongqiao, with maps and some historical information.
What’s in this post?
The Shuiguan Great Wall is the eastern end of the 60km (approximately) long line of Great Wall that blocks the passes through the mountains north-northwest of Beijing.
The stretch of wall between Shuiguan and Qinglongqiao blocks two of the minor passes to the east of the main pass at the Badaling Great Wall.
Those two minor passes were possibly not very well-known, or important, and maybe because of that there’s not a lot of historical information about the Shuiguan Great Wall available in English or Chinese.
What does seem to be agreed-upon is that the Great Wall seen there now is a repaired version of Ming Dynasty Great Wall built during the reign of the Yongle Emperor (1402-1424) and, according to dates inscribed in stelae found in the nearby Stone Buddha Temple, that there was something there as early as the Liao Dynasty (907-1125 AD).
The wall here was repaired in the 1990s and opened for tourism as the Shuiguan Great Wall. Before being renamed, the area was originally named after the temple. (The temple was moved to make way for the motorway; it’s still nearby the wall, just a different nearby.)
Shuiguan (水关) translates literally as Water Pass, and it’s named like that because, way back in the day, a stream or river would have run down from the mountains, and the wall would have either incorporated an arch to allow the water past or had the battlements built up to the river’s edge.
The river or stream has dried up or been covered by concrete, and the original water pass has been replaced with a new version that includes the notably large Arrow Tower and incorporates an arch for vehicle traffic to pass through to Stone Buddha Temple village and the Commune by the Great Wall.
The Great Wall on the southeast side of the arch and Arrow Tower runs up towards the top of a mountain. Near the peak it turns into a rough rocky and stony wall that disappears nearly immediately into knee-high scrub.
To the northeast, the wall joins up with the Badaling Great Wall, passing the Red Leaves Ridge park and the Qinglongqiao railway station on the way.
Some of the earliest tourists went by Shuiguan on the way to Badaling (a popular tourist destination since the late 1800s!) and I found a few of their photos to include by tracing the copyright from links passed on by hiking buddy HW.
Tourists still visit and take photos. The Shuiguan Great Wall is one of the closest sections of Great Wall to Beijing city, and it gets a lot of visitors. (See a photo of a crowded day)
Various obstacles prevent people from hiking the whole lot—gates, fences, and security cameras at Shuiguan; security cameras and guards on the wall above Red Leaves Ridge; guards, fences, and the railway lines at Qinglongqiao; and then a well-sealed tower at the southern end of the Badaling Great Wall.
The photos below are from visits in December 2021 and January 2022, with some historical shots interspersed. (Lack of crowds in my photos are due to epidemic- and Winter Olympics-related travel restrictions; lack of crowds in historical photos are due to the difficulty of getting a taxi in the early 1900s.)
Leica D-LUX 5 for the photos.
The Water Pass and Arrow Tower
The southeast side of the Shuiguan Great Wall
When we visited (December 2021), the southeast side was closed ‘for safety’. We got on to the top section of the southeast side by blagging our way into the Commune by the Great Wall and hiking their ‘private’ trail, but didn’t get far along the wall before being stopped by an extremely solid gate.
The northwest side of the Shuiguan Great Wall
On that same December 2021 visit the northwest side was unguarded, and some gate- and fence-dodging (ahem) got us on to the long stretch of repaired wall that ends at Qinglongqiao.
By the time we got to Qinglongqiao we’d been spotted on the security cameras. We were intercepted by a surprisingly reasonable security guard, who told us off just a little bit and then asked us to head back because “If you keep going that way we’ll all get in trouble.” Fair enough.
After hiking back to the Shuiguan Great Wall, we drove around to Qinglongqiao for a look at the train station.
Beijing Hikers occasionally visits the Shuiguan Great Wall as part of a hike called Juyongguan Great Wall and Shuiguan Great Wall, but no guarantees about being able to get very far along the northwest section at Shuiguan.
Shuiguan Great Wall
Shuǐguān Chángchéng / 水关长城 / Water Pass Great Wall
Shuiguan info on Baidu (Chinese language)
Beijing Great Wall Culture Research Institute WeChat article on Shuiguan Great Wall and Stone Buddha Temple (Chinese language)