In the East, the Shuidonggou Sections of the Great Wall of China connect to the Yanchi Great Wall Sections(Wuzhong Prefecture). In the West they end at the Yellow River (Huang He) at the village of Hengcheng. Hengcheng, as is described in more details below, is a historic location for several reasons. Among things, it used to serve as an important port along the Yellow River, that is before the river was dammed and its waters subsequently dwindled.
(2) Shuidong Gou (水洞沟) - General Introduction
This page was last updated: July 21, 2017
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Long before the dawn of the Ming Dynasty Era (1368 AD - 1644 AD), the Yellow Plain was already being contested by the nomadic peoples of the north, and the sedentery Han peoples from the south and south-west. The nomads found these regions attractive grazing and hunting grounds, whereas the Han eyed for the same reasons, and as a base for their sedentary lifestyle and agriculture.
Google Earth Supported Map of Shuidongou Great Wall Tourist Site by DrBen.Net.
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The Shuidonggou Great Wall is a part of the Great Wall situated in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region guarding the southern rim of the Ordos Desert which in history formed the border between the sedentary culture of the Han Chinese (and associates) and the nomadic cultures of the steppes beyond to the north. In fact, up until halfway the reign of the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD - 1644 AD) and even beyond up to the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, the lands of the Ordos Desert were considered the tribal territory of specific Mongolian nomadic tribes although they had been subdued by the greater Manchu Empire established under the Kangxi (Reign: 1661 AD - 1722 AD) and Qianlong Emperors of that Dynasty uniting for the first time Manchuria, China and Mongolia into one realm.
Celebrating the original nomadic and foreign history of these regions, the monument of the Tomb of Genghis Khan be found just outside of Ordos City of what is now the neighboring Chinese Ordos Prefecture of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
All of these glories are in the far past by now, however. The nomads have long gone, the last of their historic treasures destroyed by young Chinese during the Cultural Revolution (1966 AD - 1976 AD) and their territory claimed by the advance of Han Chinese Farmers. As one may find described on these pages, of late a new threat to the now devastated grazing lands of the past has arrived in the form of Chinese Mining Companies and other large industrial conglomerates claiming the land, flaunting environmental rules and sucking the life out of the desert through the rapid depletion of the remaining ground waters.
Today where once only Camel Caravans, lone traders, ruffians and the odd military patrol dwelled in the vast emptiness along the lush water filled gully and Great Wall leading westward, only the Shuidonggou Great Wall of China remains to mark the historic location of that border.
Today the Shuidonggou Wall is totally unrestored and thus a mostly eroded and crumpling section. All of the visible wall sections and ruined buildings date to the Ming Dynasty Era (1368 A.D. - 1644 A.D.).
Its very long length as well as the small river running along the wall for a short stretch makes it
Overview Map of Shuidongou Great Wall between Yinchuan and Yanchi by DrBen.Net.
interesting for explorations. Among things, the Shuidonggou Great Wall features the unique feature of a watchtower overlooking the Yellow River, a river that streams along it, at least three ruined beacon towers, a double layered section and a Castle or Block City. The Castle, constructed miles away in the direction of Yanchi was the home of an additional garrison in defense of this notorious wall section in the plain. It was the regions hidden strategic military reserve. Today it (roughly) marks the border between the Shuidonggou Great Wall and the adjacent Yanchi (County) Great Wall of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
Eventhough the Shuidonggou Wall is growing in popularity seemingly each year, as yet not too many people venture out there in the desert. Most visitors are shipped in on package deals, arriving through Yinchuan Airport and subsequently touring the most well-known sites in groups. All such tour groups only come to the official tourist site which is situated at 11 kilometers distance from Yinchuan Hedong Airport and 19 kilometers from city center.
A new addition to the official Shuidonggou great wall tourist spot is a gleaming new museum building constructed in the
desert at but a short distance due south of the ruined Shuidonggou Great Wall and adjoining Water Cave Gully and river. The Museum proper is dedicated to a recently unearthed paleolithic site and exhibits its found relics and explanations of truly ancient cultures which cannot even be dubbed Chinese yet. Although it helps to be somewhat pre-informed on the history of the Silk Road in Asia and its very early history, for anyone visitor the museum experience can be thrilling, inspiring and informing. That is, although everyone has come prepared to see the Ming Dynasty Era Great Wall, few have heard of the specific early history of the Shuidong River site and the wider regions. As the museum explains, life for the pre-historic Asians was particularly good at the Shuidong River, which even at this early time already existed. Overtime, the people who dwelled the wider regions as hunter-gatherers settled down along the river banks, apparently spawning what amounts to an early form of society and civilization. Overtime
name of a small river which runs along this section of the wall, eventually cutting through and emptying into the Yellow River as a tributary someway's due north- west of Yinchuan City. In the time of its operation during the Ming Era, the main garrison reinforcing this wall was stationed at Yinchuan, whereas several Castles (or Block Cities) can be found along the line extending eastward towards Yanchi (Ningxia). The Shuidong River, which went protected by its Great Wall of China after its construction served as a convenient water source for the military garrison and all those passing by. In later centuries, after the development of trade with the barbarians, the dirt road in the desert even made it as a part of the valued trading route leading to Yinchuan and from there on into Inner Mongolia. In its later days it was part of the Tea Trading Route which led from the gates of the Imperial Capital of Beijing in various branches to border stations such as Zhangjiakou (Kalgan), Datong and Yinchuan into the previously forbidden and hazardous lands of the nomads, eventually connecting through to Central Asia and Moscow beyond.
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Today it is known that starting from the beginning of the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), fortifications were built in Ningxia and Inner-Mongolia, to defend Han settler-farmers against the invaders from the north. It is however unclear where exactly these fortifications existed.
colonization succeeded and the first Chinese Farmers raised their crops and filled their granaries there. Unintentionally, this created an even more attractive situation for the nomads in the North. Where first they descended down to these regions to graze their herds during especially harsh winters, in the same situation they now found Chinese farms in their paths. As a result, the Chinese settlers suffered from continuous raids, especially during and after the harvest season. They needed protection and they needed more than just their own military garrison.
Find out more about the History of Shuidonggou and its Great Wall Sections in:
Today, the Shuidonggou Great Wall of China is no longer an elongated mud lump stretching its way through an otherwise empty desert, as it was for most of the past centuries. Especially in recent years, the Capital City of Yinchuan has been booming, new highrises and city blocks mushrooming at an pace and scale unprecedented in the world (outside the Peoples Republic of China). Apart from an urban development boom which has slowly seen the city extend its grasp towards the river banks and the town of Hengcheng, the wider regions have been targeted by the Central Government for job creation and economic development, a goal which is achieved by implementing infra-structural projects and through the movement of heavy industries from coastal regions inland. All along the western segments of the Shuidonggou Great Wall enormous industrial complexes have been pounded out of the desert floor. Dump trucks move underneath the wall scouring for the high quality coal that famously lies only centimeters beneath the surface of the eastern banks of the Yellow River in Ningxia. As a result, visitors to the ″wild wall″ of Shuidonggou may find themselves faced not with fresh clean desert air, but abundant air pollution as well as pockmarked desert strewn with high voltage power lines, their towers and a horizon filled with steaming factories and their chimney's. As one will find, the vast emptiness of the Tengger Desert previously only interrupted by the Great Wall of China and a centuries old cart path leading along it, as so elegantly described by Mildred Cable and Francesca French in the Book ″The Gobi Desert″ is no more. Instead, the desert is fast being turned into an industrial moonscape that seems to be completely out of sync with the surrounding natural beauties as they are usually sought by tourists.
In addition to the rapid changes occurring in previously still mostly rural Ningxia, the entire region also finds itself subject to a tourist development boom. Although the Shuidonggou Great Wall of China is really too long to re-make into one large theme park, current day visitors may note substantial changes along the previously remote and entirely wild wall of Shuidonggou.
Among things, a brand new Shuidonggou Great Wall of China Tourist Center and Museum has arisen in the desert. Situated along the Shuidong River, it presents an area of which the ecology has been propped up in order to create a somewhat lush and fresh green zone for tourist to explore and even camp in.
Less attractive are the fences that have gone up around the complex, separating the eager tourists from the actual remains of the Great Wall itself. As we have found, most tourist end up being sent away in disappointment, not having been able to explore freely on their own accounts.
Other disappointments are the recent development of the Yellow River port of Hengcheng as a tourist village centering upon both the river and its unique watchtower overlooking the river. Intended for the leisure of apparently rich investors from far away coastal cities, the holiday village entirely excludes everyone else from its premises except for on special
Eroded mud lump of a watchtower and a segment of the Shuidonggou Great Wall of China sitting among developing heavy industrial parks along the south rim of the advancing Tengger Desert several kilometers due east of Yinchuan and Hengcheng village. Heavily laden trucks drive underneat the wall in order to load precious coal which lies only centimers below the surface of the desert in these regions. On the left, the rim of the Shuidong River gully from which the Great Wall derives its name.
holiday occasions when ″Ethnic Dance Festivals″ are held to honor the great Yellow River of Ningxia and entertain the bewildered coastal city dwellers. Sadly with the first watchtower (not restored; a restored version can be found inside the Shapotou Scenic Zone of the Yellow River in Ningxia, at Shapotou, Zhongwei Prefecture) of the Great Wall of China along the Yellow River claimed as the territory of the well to do, this means that off season, the holiday estate is turned into a walled off guarded fortress to which no one can gain entry without going through tedious procedures, or alternatively - just breaking and entering and taking all risks involved.
Although severely eroded and threatened by the advancing of the Ordos Desert, the Shuidonggou Wall is worthwhile exploring. It is a wall with some interesting history attached, and features a number of scenes not found elsewhere. To name but one; the "un-official" Great Wall Sections of Shuidonggou start at the Yellow River and thus the Shuidonggou features a Watchtower that actually overlooks the river. It is one of only three watchtowers along the entire length of the Great Wall of China to do so.
The first such tower can be found inside the Shapotou Scenic Zone up the river at Zhongwei, however this is a fake and not very well restored watchtower. The only other unrestored (original) watchtower is famous and is found at the Old Ox Bend (Liaonuwan) of the Yellow River on the Eastern Bank, within Shanxi Province.
Another unique feature of the Shuidonggou Great Wall of China sections is provided by a hidden Fortress known as as Hongshan, which together with its caves of Cangbing (Hiding Soldier) Hole are reportedly the only secret military installation found along the Great Wall of China that makes use of caves and more notably cave tunnels. Local tourist agencies make a point of it that this is the site that makes proof of tunnel warfare in China, some 500 years before the now famous Red Army guerilla's of Mao Zedong made use of it in their battle(s) against the Japanese in these regions.
Fairly recently in the year 2009, a paleolithic (2.6 million years ago - roughly 100.000 B.C.) site which had been discovered earlier underneath the Shuidonggou Great Wall (in 1923), has been turned into a new tourist venue complete with hypermodern museum building and some newly created outdoor ″exhibitions″ that amount to a small tourist park with
imitation cave dwellings focussed on the pond-like Red Lake, which due to the shortage of water in the region and the rapidly sinking ground waters needed to be created by damming the meager remains of the once considerable river Shuidong.
The Shuidonggou archeological site itself has been rendered unrecognizable. Instead, the majority of attention is taken by the bulky museum locked inside the fences of what has been designed as the Shuidonggou Great Wall official tourists site, creating a completely new experience. Apart from the lone crumpling wall in the desert there is now the museum and a small park, as well as a collection of imitation loess caves, camel rides in the desert and tourist boat rides on what has been dubbed "Red Lake", a dammed portion of the Shuidong River that flows along the Great Wall for but a short distance. To the East of the museum a paved road leads away to the sprawling yet ruined mud square fortress hailed as the "Red Mountain (Hongshan) Fortress" which however remains just out of sight of the museum and can only be explored as part of the package deal included with a ticket to the official site. Similarly, no (official) access can be gained from the grounds outside of the Museum to the ruined Shuidonggou Great Wall even though it is in sight and nearby. Rather annoyingly, as things turn out on location, the only way to gain access to the Great Wall parts proper is to arrange for a (summer?) stay on site, camping out in one of the cave homes or just out in the desert. Off tourist season this is not possible, and therefor the only method to gain success is to sneak in and walk across the Shuidong River gully, hopefully unseen and thus undisturbed.
Nevertheless, irrespective of the disturbing modern trends occurring at and near the Shuidonggou Great Wall, one still needs to have seen it and done it in order to fully appreciate this unique longest section of the Great Wall of China entire.
In order to get acquainted with the Shuidonggou, one is still advised to arrange for transport to the Museum and explore the Museum, the Stone Age site and the Red Fortress all in one go. Thus, having reviewed some of the confusing situation of the highway under construction and various roads and dirt roads cutting back and forth through the desert as well as the official remains of the Shuidonggou Great Wall, one might be better equipped for another expedition in order to explore some of the remaining wild wall.
Afterall, beyond the Museum and the fenced site, the Great Wall continues all the way to Yanchi on the border with neighboring Shaanxi Province and along the way several other fortified sites and other relics can be found and explored without all the due tourist hassle.
Please do mind, driving out from the city of Yinchuan and touring the official site will take anyone a good part of their day. Heading beyond this site in order to explore all of the Shuidonggou Wall makes for double values worth on one's
View of the recently constructed Shuidonggou Archeological Site Museum, which has an interesting exhibition concerning early pre-historic life in the area of the Shuidong River.
View of the Red Lake of the Shuidonggou river, which was created in 2009 in order to make the area more interesting for visiting tourists. In reality the river has just about disappeared underground due to the pumping up and spilling of ground waters by the industries seen dotting the desert along the Great Wall as well as around Yinchuan.
trip, however this may lead unprepared visitors astray into what can seem alike a maze of desert roads which seem without destination. Do come prepared and bring digital as well as other maps in order to navigate your way without any stressful moments.
It would also be wise to bring along some food and better drinks. The air in the desert of Ningxia is unusually dry, even for China's north-west. Even in winter at lower temperatures a good thirst is bound to set in. No food or service stations are found out in the desert beyond the museum and its gas station.
various tribes of primitive peoples lived along the river and various types of skulls were identified were identified during the 5 seperate excavations done on this location.
As was found specifically at the Shuidonggou archeological site, quite likely under influence of various cultural traits, wisdom and technologies spreading along the pre-Silk Road routes throughout the Asian continent, the primitive people in these regions learned how to carve fine miniature tools out of stone. In addition, finds from peoples frequenting the
Depictions of an early pre-historic Water Cave Gully river and human life along it. As was proven from finds done at Shuidonggou, at least 4 pre-human species lived at the site before finally homo sapiens -modern man- arrived. The modern man developed technologies that sped him forward into new ways of living and unfortunately warfare, eventually leading to the construction of the Great Wall along the river.
location during much later era's it is found that there was an early development of bronze working skills, which rapidly developed and then skipped directly to the pouring and casting of iron without going through a forging stage.
In addition to the Museum and its lively exhibition, the Scenic Zone of Shuidonggou Great Wall has an interestingly named Red Hill Fortress a ruined but still impressive complex out in the desert which somewhat famously includes a collection of cave dwellings and underground tunnels which are purported to have been a secret military installation supporting the military guarding the Great Wall of China, of the Qin Dynasty or of the Ming Dynasty. It is unclear in which era the cave fortress is supposed to have functioned as no available sources make any mention of it.
Anyone who wants to Stay- or Get away from the tourist buses and tour-groups and walk the Great Wall in the desert all by themselves can fairly easily do so, especially out of season. Just do not visit the official site and select another strip of wall to hike along.
Obviously, in the harsh winter no one ventures out to the wall in the desert. Likewise in the hot summer months of June, July and August. Although tour groups will still be rolled up to the Museum for their tour, only really eager persons and irresponsible idiots dwell about in the unknown whilst unprepared without some sort of supervision or company.
Even if it is not full tourist season one might just instruct ones driver to make a little more distance and get beyond the main site. Get out of your ride beyond the Tourist Venue point and hike along from there. Make sure of available transport back before heading off into no man's land.
Be advized: Come prepared. Eventhough it seems impossible to get lost in the desert with so much of civilization still in sight on the horizon, unforeseen circumstances may occur. At the very least, bring enough to drink, there is no drinkable water
out in the desert. Good footwear, sunglasses and perhaps sunblock cream might also come in
handy depending on season and month.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast if you can. Dust storms are the most frequent in spring and
can really ruin the day.
Fragmented skull of Homo Habilis found at the Shuidong River site. Homo Habilis was an early human species which lived from approximately 2.33 to 1.44 million years ago, during the Gelasian Pleistocene period.