Chinese: 上关
Pinyin: Shàng guān
English: Upper pass
Coordinates: 40°18'45.2"N 116°2'18"E

About 3.3 kilometers (2.1 miles) north of Juyongguan, about halfway between Juyongguan and Shuiguan, is a short stretch of the Great Wall which is visible to thousands of motorists every day but yet which is nearly never visited or discussed. This is the Shangguan Great Wall.

Shangguan consists of a length of wall of about 280 meters (920 feet) in length, with a perpendicular tail wall which is about 100 meters (330 feet) long. The main wall begins right at the edge of the access road and soon begins to climb steeply up the hill. The wall was originally made from stone. The lower half of the wall, up to the point where it meets the tail wall, was later covered with bricks, as was the tail wall. At the lowest points of the wall, bricks have been removed in recent times to be used for other purposes, leaving the wall in very deteriorated condition. The upper half of the wall is still in its original stone configuration. Near the top, the wall is reduced to a few stones stacked up to fill in gaps in the mountainside. At the top of the mountain is an old stone tower.

Looking down from the point where the bricks turn to stone

Once you start to climb the wall, you will begin to enjoy impressive views of the surrounding mountains. You will notice that there are watchtowers to the north and the south. If you look closely at the mountains across the valley, you will see another wall at the higher parts of the adjacent mountain which looks very difficult to reach and even more difficult to climb.

Shangguan is a short span of Great Wall and doesn't take long to explore. But if you have some spare time on the way to or from another destination, Shangguan is well worth visiting. You'll be experiencing a part of the Great Wall which has varied construction, offers great views, and is rarely visited. If you don't get a chance to visit Shangguan, look for it from the Badaling Expressway as you pass by. The central part of the wall is easy to see from the road.

Location summary: Shangguan is about 54 kilometers (34 miles) northwest of downtown Beijing. It is about 3.8 kilometers (2.3 miles) northwest of Juyongguan, about 2.8 kilometers (1.7 miles) southeast of Shuiguan, and about 5.4 kilometers (3.4 miles) southeast of Badaling.

Driving directions: From Deshengmen City Gate near the Jishuitan subway station on the north side of Beijing, drive north and northwest on the G110 Badaling Expressway for 51 kilometers (32 miles) to Shangguan.

One of the places I was most anxious to visit in 2010 was Shangguan.

The Shangguan Great Wall is located very close to Beijing, in between Juyongguan and Shuiguan. Zillions of people pass by it every day on the Badaling expressway. And yet there is very little information about this place available anywyere.

I waited for a beautiful day to visit this special place. When the weather was perfect, on the 25th of October, I took the bus to Badaling and walked from there to Shangguan. I took my time investigating the Shangguan Great Wall and then walked back to Badaling. The walk takes just over an hour and provides fantastic views the entire way.

Shangguan consists of a main wall that is roughly perpendicular to the Badaling Expressway, and a tail wall that is roughly parallel to the Badaling Expressway and heads south from about halfway up the main wall. The main wall is brick for its first half, and then it turns to stone. The wall ends before the top of the mountain, but there is a stone watchtower at the top of the mountain. I guess this wall was built in the early Ming Dynasty, and then parts of it were reinforced with brick later in the Ming Dynasty.

A view of the top tower from a distance

Overview of the middle part of the Shangguan Great Wall

Overview of the Shangguan Great Wall from the nearby construction site
The top tower is behind the top of the hill

The lowest part of the main wall of the Shangguan Great Wall

Bricks have been removed from the lowest parts of the main wall

Looking up from the lower, more level part of the main wall

A view from where the wall starts to climb steeply - at the top is the beginning of the remaining bricks

Looking up over the brick section

Looking down from the brick section

Looking up higher on the brick section

Looking up higher still on the brick section

Stone tower where the brick section ends and the stone section starts
This is where the spur wall joins the main wall too

Looking down at the brick section from atop the stone tower

Here is the stone wall

Looking from the end of the stone section towards the top tower

The top tower

Corner detail of the top tower

Looking across the valley from the top tower

Looking down at the Shangguan Great Wall from the top tower

Looking north from the top of the tower. Shuiguan Great Wall in the distance ... and a wall on the mountain nearby!

Across the valley, another tower with a wall to rival the Sky Bridge at Simatai!

Close-up of the tower across the valley

A make-up wall on a cliff

Looking at the construction of the main wall's highest bricks, from the spur wall

Looking down lower from the same position

Looking down the spur wall

Shangguan Great Wall map