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Trekking through a slice of the Great Wall

July 30, 2010

EDITOR'S NOTE: Throughout the summer, ASU students studying abroad will be writing back to the states about their overseas adventures. Fostering international student experiences is just one part of ASU's commitment to making a global impact.

Danica's blog:
This past weekend I visited two more famous Beijing sites – the Summer Palace (颐和园 ) and the Great Wall (长城). Both were a lot of fun, but the weather here recently has been extremely hot (according to one of my teachers, this is one of Beijing's hottest recorded summers) so it made for an exhausting weekend.

The Summer Palace is not too far from our campus, so a few friends and I just hopped on the subway to get there after class. It is a beautiful complex on the man-made Kunming Lake filled with many different temples, pavilions and gardens. The centerpiece of the palace is called Longevity Hill, upon which stands a number of grand buildings, including one of my favorite parts of the visit, the Temple of Buddhist Virtue.

Other notable parts of the palace include the Long Corridor and the Marble Boat. The Long Corridor is a covered walkway built for the Emperor's mother which stretches to a length of more than 2,300 feet. The entire corridor is decorated with detailed paintings of Chinese folk tales and legends. The Marble Boat lies at the end of the corridor and is a striking structure that is actually mostly made out of wood, but painted to look like marble. It is said that the Marble Boat was not only a place for the Empress to relax, but also a political symbol. By creating a boat that would not be capsized, the Emperor was providing an image of the stability of the Qing Dynasty.

The following day was our trip to the Great Wall, which we began with lunch in a small village nearby the starting point of our hike. The food was delicious and we had a chance to walk around and talk with some of the families living in the area. We learned that most of the village is Catholic and has been for eight generations. Pretty rare for China, so it was a really interesting experience.

The portion of the Wall we hiked on is called 金山岭 and is in a more remote area, so the Wall itself was a lot less populated than some of the areas that are more well known to tourists. We were able to really soak in the scenery and on our entire hike only saw a handful of other visitors. We spent around four hours hiking up steep staircases and down uneven slopes so we all got a workout but had an awesome time. As we panted to the finish line of our hike, with the Wall extending over the mountains on either side of us, it was weird to think of the tiny portion we had just covered in comparison with the entire Wall, which is nearly 4,000 miles long!

Danica Harvey, an international letters and cultures major with an emphases in Chinese and economics, is a student in the Chinese Language Flagship Program and will be a junior this fall. She is studying abroad in China this summer.