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The Shuiguan Great Wall Section

Written by Chris Quan Updated Oct. 30, 2023

Shuiguan's length of Great Wall was an indispensable part of the Great Wall defenses around Badaling. In a pass between high mountains, it functioned to defend against invaders trying to get round the defenses at Badaling by using a side valley.

It was given the name Shuiguan — 'Water Pass' — as other Great Wall passes didn't have so much water flowing through them.

Quick Facts

  • Chinese: 水关长城 Shuǐguān Chángchéng /shway-gwan channg-chnng/ 'Water Pass Great Wall'
  • Location: 50 km (30 mi) northwest of central Beijing, east of Badaling's Great Wall
  • History: over 400 years
  • Length: 6.8 km (4.2 mi)
  • Entry: 40 RMB
  • Open: 6:30am–5:30pm (peak season); 7:30am–4:30pm (off season)
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Shuiguan is NOT the Badaling Section of the Great Wall

water pass location mapShuiguan is next to Badaling, and 8 km from Juyongguan.

The Badaling–Shuiguan part of the Great Wall is all managed by Badaling Tourism General Corporation. Nowadays many guides may mislead tourists that Shuiguan is the Badaling section of the Great Wall. Don't be fooled if you want to visit the Great Wall at Badaling.

What Makes the Shuiguan Great Wall Section Special?

Along with Badaling and Juyongguan, the Shuiguan Great Wall section once protected the northwest passage to Beijing, where Mongol invasion was most likely to come.

It is one of the strongest and best-preserved sections, and one of the most indispensable parts of Great Wall defense system. The wall was built during the Ming Dynasty, supervised by famous general Qi Jiguang, over 400 years ago.

The Water Pass Fort Has a Striking Arrow Tower

The wall was built across the winding mountain contours with stone blocks and gray bricks. The fortifications at 'Water Pass' are very unique along the Great Wall, hence the pass gave its name to this Great Wall section. The 'arrow tower' is 15 meters (49 feet) high and 12 meters (39 feet) wide, a mighty fortification for a small pass at that time.

It's Very Strategic — the Last Pass in 14 Miles

There is seemingly a 22 km (14 mi) gap in the Great Wall between Badaling/Shuiguan and the Huanghuacheng section, but it was still considered that an army wouldn't be able to get through to Beijing from Yanqing Town via the Ming Tombs.

It is said that this is due to the fengshui of the Ming Tombs. In non-geomantic terms, this just means that the Ming Tombs have a shielding range of mountains behind them. This range of mountains offers no pass suitable to march an army through. So, in that zone, the mountain range had the same defensive function as the Great Wall.

Less-Travelled — Impressive and Peaceful Great Wall

Shuiguan's Great Wall is less famous than the Mutianyu and Badaling sections. There aren't many tourists crowding the Great Wall there. It is a great place for you to experience the culture of Great Wall quietly, especially on the steep eastern part, as even fewer people go there.

The East and West Parts of Shuiguan's Great Wall

The Shuiguan Great Wall stretches four watchtowers east to an abrupt end high on the valley side, just south of the Great Wall Commune, and nine watchtowers west from the pass to another valley. Across the valley the Great Wall continues with the Badaling section.

The East Shuiguan Great Wall

Climb 200m in elevation along the 1½-km eastern section of Shuiguan's Great Wall. In half an hour you will come across an abrupt end to the Great Wall, just 200m from the road of the Great Wall Commune. At 700m above sea level, it must have seemed that the pass was well-enough protected, and there was no need for any more wall.

It requires energy to climb the wall's steps because they are very steep. When you get to the top of the Great Wall, you can see the Great Wall lying along the winding mountains like a dragon.

East Shuiguan's fame: The song "Chinese" sung by Liu Dehua (Andy Lau, famous Hong Kong star) is renowned in China. Its MTV video was shot at Shuiguan East. Michael Jordan has also visited Shuiguan East and taken photos.

The West Shuiguan Great Wall

Walking westwards from the arrow tower on Shuiguan's more popular 5 km (3 mi) of winding Great Wall, you will come to the Jing–Zhang Railway. It was the first Chinese-designed-and-built mountain-valley railway in 1909, connecting Beijing and Zhangjiakou in Hebei Province. It was supervised by Zhan Tianyou, a famous railway engineering expert.

Tiny Qinglongqiao Railway Station separates the Shuiguan and Badaling sections of the Great Wall.

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How to Get to Shuiguan

By Car:

Take the Jing–Zang (Beijng–Tibet) Expressway (G6, former Badaling Expressway) to Exit 53 (水关长城 Shuiguan Great Wall).

Distance by Road from... Kilometers Miles
Tian'anmen Square 69 43
Beijing Capital International Airport 76 47
Beijing Railway Station 72 45
Beijing West Railway Station 64 40
Beijing North Railway Station 63 39

By Bus:

Take bus 919 from Deshengmen (德胜门) to Shuiguan Changcheng (水关长城). It takes the expressway for most of the journey, so you can be there within 1½ hours if there isn't a traffic jam. However, it's less convenient for returning to Beijing, because it takes a 20-minute loop north via the Badaling Stop, before heading to Beijing.

China Highlights' Private Transfer Service

driverChina Highlights private transport

China Highlights offers private chauffeured transport as a more comfortable and convenient alternative to public transportation. Our private tours come with a private vehicle and driver suited to your group size, and an English-speaking tour guide for all your communication needs.

If you would like a tour of Shuiguan's Great Wall, let us know your requirements, and we will help you create your own unique Great Wall tour!

Travel Essentials

When to Go

The scenery of the Great Wall varies with the seasons and each season has its pros and cons. See Best Time to Visit the Great Wall of China to plan your tour.

What to Wear

Dress for hiking and dress for the weather. Choose comfortable footwear with good grip and support for the feet. Layers of clothes that can be taken on and off allow for greater comfort and temperature control.

Wear/bring sun protection in the summer and dress for sub zero temperatures in the winter. It can feel much colder on the wall than down in the valleys because of altitude and exposure.

What to Bring

Bring breathable waterproofs for protection from rain and wind. Umbrellas may be used there only where the ascents and descents are not difficult, i.e. around the arrow tower. Bring a camera and money for souvenirs and refreshments. Bring snacks and water if you want to stay on the wall for some time.

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