Travelling to the Great Wall was certainly one of the “must dos” of our trip to Beijing. There’s a lot of debate on which part of the great wall you should visit in terms of “authenticity” but since we were travelling with a group that included my 16 year old sister in law and my 59 year old mother in law, I chose ease of access as the primary criterion. Badaling is said to be the most tourist trappy of all the sections of the great wall, but it was the most well restored and easily accessible by train, so it won out handily. The sketch above was after a 500m hike from the Badaling train station to the small commercial area outside the great wall. The girls had taken a bathroom break so I had 5-10 minutes to sketch by the side of the road. I was actually a little disappointed because I’d heard that there would be merchants here with camels that you could have a photo op with, and sunbears that you could feed carrots to, and I’d wanted to sketch them. I won’t venture an opinion on the tackiness of such obvious tourist related commercial enterprises, but certainly it’s not something I get a chance to see/draw everyday.
This was sketched at the highest section of the Badaling Wall, at least of the area that we visited. There is a path leading left and a path leading right when one enters the great wall, and supposedly the path to the left is steeper but has better views. I coaxed my family to take the leftmost path mostly because all of the tour groups were going right, which meant a huge mass of people on the wall. Since this was the highest section of “our” wall, I decided to take a break to commemorate the climb (and get a little rest as well), spending about 30 minutes on this particular sketch. There were a number of people looking of my shoulder while I was sketching, but since they didn’t really ask questions I was able to sketch without any interruptions.
I’d love to visit Beijing again someday, ideally when the Chinese government is less paranoid about handing out visas. There are still many places to see in the city proper, and definitely quite a few places where I wish I had more time to sketch.