Great Wall

Great Wall

I'm currently developing this page based on my 2002 magazine article and hope to have it ready for viewing shortly.

Martin, S. A. (2002). Skate the wall: Skateboarding through time on the Great Wall of ChinaKona Views Magazine, (pp. 21–22). Kailua-Kona, Hawaii: Kona Media Inc.



Between 1995 and 2002, I studied abroad during five summers at Peking University. Hiking – and skateboarding – on the Great Wall quickly became my favorite activity, outside of attending lectures in Chinese philosophy on campus.

Each time I traveled to the Wall, I learned something new, and the more I visited different areas, the more I wanted to learn about the history and culture behind this amazing symbol of the Chinese people.

I hope you will enjoy my story.

2002 Huanghuachen Great Wall | Click to lecture slides PDF

Taxi driver on the way to the Great Wall

Skateboarding on the Great Wall

Skate the Wall

Our sleek private taxi wove its way between big trucks and buses, tiny cars and vans, zooming motorcycles and buzzing scooters. The silent bikes and carts yielded without stress, smoothly avoiding us as if doing Tai Chi.

Radiating from Beijing, the traffic faded into tranquility. We, students from the University of Hawaii, headed due north with our driver, a kind-hearted Chinese man with dark glasses and a love for classic Western rock music.

We gave him a thumbs-up and nodded when his stereo played Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall.

Around us wheat and corn formed a checkerboard landscape, as hills graduated to small mountains with riverbanks planted with weeping willows, walnut and peach trees, thriving under deep blue sky. Slender poplar trees cast zebra-striped shadows which flickered on our faces while we blazed on.

It was a perfect day to skate the Wall.

Ancient Chinese Skate Park?

1995 | Ba Da Ling Great Wall

1995 | Ba Da Ling Great Wall

Philosophical Attitudes

Just as philosophical attitudes of Chinese and Americans may differ, so too have their reactions to my skating on the Wall.

Photos from my early trips in 1995 shocked some Western friends to contend, “You mean they allow you to do that?” In contrast, responses from Chinese people were more positive and light-hearted.

The first time I skated the Wall, a guard stationed at the Wall shouted in Mandarin and took my board. To my surprise, he traded me his rifle for my skateboard and tried to ride it, shooting down the hill out of control, skidding to a halt, and tearing holes in his clothes.

Bruised and bleeding, he reacted with a smile, and raced up the hill for another try.

To be continued...

Huanghuachen Great Wall

2000 | Kawika and Aaron, students from the University of Hawaii at "Jin Shan Ling" 金山嶺 Great Wall

Skateboarding through time on the Great Wall

My 2018 Great Wall Lecture for Eastern Civilization

2018 Great Wall Lecture | Click to view PDF slides | 30MB

Some of my favorite photos of hiking the Great Wall

Hiking on the Great Wall of China, north of Beijing | Click to Eastern Civilization Course Page

Jinshanling Great Wall, north of Beijing, a 10 kilometer stretch of unrestored wall | Click to Eastern Civilization Course Page

Farmer at Jinshanling Great Wall

Hiking on the Great Wall

View of Simatai Great Wall

Mutianyu Great Wall

Jiayuguan Fort

Chinese worker on lunch break

View from a garrison at Jinshanling

Bricks in the Wall

Selected Short Videos

Smithsonian Channel | 4:52

TED-ed | 4:29

Thank you for visiting my Great Wall of China Page.

–Steven Martin

Skateboarding through time on the Great Wall of China | Click to Eastern Civilization Course Page