What is the Badaling Section of the Great Wall?

The Badaling section is one of the most famous and most visited sections of the Great Wall of China. It’s located approximately 80 kilometers northwest of Beijing’s city center, making it relatively accessible for both tourists and locals alike.

The wall at Badaling was built during the Ming Dynasty around the 16th century, along a strategic pass that was a crucial choke point for those attempting to invade Beijing. The walls are around 8.5 meters high and 6 meters wide – large enough for five horses or ten soldiers to walk side by side along the top.


Badaling was the first section of the wall to be opened to tourists in 1957 following reconstruction.

Today, it is notable for its comprehensive facilities and beautiful restoration. It offers stunning views of the wall snaking across the mountains, and is often what people picture when they think of the Great Wall.


There is a lot of significance attached to the Badaling section of the Great Wall in international diplomacy and public relations, especially since China began to open to the West in the late 20th century.

Located near Beijing, Badaling is the most visited and best-preserved section of the Great Wall. It was the first section to be opened to tourists after extensive renovations in the 1950s and has since become emblematic of the entire Wall and, to some extent, China itself.

Given its prominence and accessibility, the Badaling section has become a popular site for photo opportunities for international leaders visiting China. The act of taking an official portrait at the Wall serves multiple purposes. For the visiting leaders, it’s a way to publicly acknowledge China’s rich history and significance as a global power. For China, these visits from high-profile international figures help to promote its image on the world stage.

Several U.S. presidents, including Nixon, Reagan, and Obama, as well as other world leaders such as Russian President Yeltsin and Soviet leader Gorbachev, have been photographed at the Badaling Great Wall. These images, often widely shared in the media, have helped to solidify the Wall’s status as a symbol of China’s long history and cultural influence.

It’s not just world leaders that are drawn to the Great Wall, particularly well-restored sections like Badaling. The wall is a major tourist destination and a symbol of China’s openness to the rest of the world. It’s a significant attraction for foreign tourists and often features prominently in the country’s international promotions and advertisements.

It’s been estimated that Badaling attracts several millions of tourists every year.

Metaphorical boundary

There have been some scholars that have opined that the Great Wall of China, once a literal boundary against physical invasions, has evolved to symbolize a metaphorical boundary in modern times.

This metaphorical boundary is used to encapsulate national concerns, regulate information flow, and define the limits of openness and protectionism in China’s interactions with the rest of the world.

The above could refer to the government’s control over media, internet access (like the “Great Firewall of China”), and other forms of communication to shape public opinion and maintain stability.

This balance between openness and protectionism is a complex and ongoing issue in China’s relations with the rest of the world, and the Great Wall serves as a powerful symbol of this dynamic.

Despite its popularity, and the crowds that popularity can bring, Badaling remains one of the best places to get a sense of the scale and grandeur of the Great Wall. It’s also the section where many famous personalities and heads of state, such as Richard Nixon and Margaret Thatcher, have visited, further cementing its status as a symbol of the Great Wall.

Other sections of the wall

For those who want a slightly less crowded experience, there are many other sections of the Great Wall within reach of Beijing, including Mutianyu, Jinshanling, Gubeikou, Shanhaiguan, and Simatai. Each of these offers its own unique views and experiences, but Badaling remains the most well-known and frequently visited.

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