When you think of the Great Wall of China, the image that pops into your head is more than likely the incredible section of stone monument near Beijing, that is usually bustling with tourists and hawkers alike. This is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area, however if you are looking for a Great Wall experience that is out of the ordinary and off the beaten path, look no further than the little visited province of Ningxia.
The capital city, Yinchuan, is located not far from the Yellow River as it meanders its way through this isolated and seemingly deserted part of China. This thriving city of around 2 million (almost a country town for China!) is modern and bustling, with much for the tourist to see and do. Just outside of the city can be found an assembly of pyramid-like tombs from the little known Western Xixia empire (1038-1227), and in the other direction, again less than an hour from the city, you can visit the archeological site of Shuidonggou.
However, one of Ningxia’s best kept secrets is its sections of Ming dynasty wall. Sections of this ancient wall can be found in all directions from Yinchuan. The style of the wall is very different to what you can see with the renovated length near Beijing. The walls in Ningxia are made from rammed earth, and as there has been little attempt at conservation, many of the parts of the wall here have sadly eroded away. Nonetheless, there are still large sections of wall which stand at around 3-10 metres tall and are extremely well preserved. Dotted along each section, you can also discover a seemingly endless number of beacon towers, some almost completely eroded, some in incredible condition. Scattered along the ground beside the wall, it is not unusual to find quite large shards of pottery leftover from the soldiers who would have guarded the wall in the past. It is also traditional for some people to bury their dead alongside the wall, therefore It is likely that you might stumble across a grave or two on your travels.
The strange thing is, as unbelievable as it sounds, it has taken hours of research and further hours of driving around seemingly in circles to find most of the portions of wall that exist nearby Yinchuan. Many locals don’t know about them and so getting directions proves to be difficult, and finding information online
is difficult (in Chinese) or almost impossible (in English). Now that my husband and I have uncovered the secrets of the whereabouts of these stunning structures, we are more than happy to share their whereabouts with anyone keen to visit!
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