The Shambhala at the Great Wall is the first eco-tourism lodge in Beijing and is part of the Shmbhala Serai brand. The Ranch is located in it’s own private valley, called Shentangyu, and has an unrestored section of the Great Wall built by emperor Qin (Qin Shi Huangdi) running through the property. Interestingly, the Ranch itself is located north of the wall, where former terraces for farming created during the Cultural Revolution provide a natural elevation for foundations. The designs are based on a former Manchurian hunting lodge, with influences from the Chengde Summer Palace, and the structures are built using existing carved timbers and woodwork, brickwork and tiles taken from demolished traditional Beijing buildings. The Ranch today serves as a Great Wall retreat, complete with a Manchurian cuisine restaurant and rooftop dining, ten private villas, stables and a spa.
The buildings mostly consist of local stone walls, in places reusing the grey brick often found in Beijing vernacular architecture, and timber trussed roofs covered in rounded grey tiles also typical of north-eastern Chinese architecture. Around the site are dotted carefully restored Buddhist shrines, some of which contain carvings pre-dating the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907AD).
As with Laurence Brahm’s other properties, care is taken not only in the authentic methods of building and construction by using local workmen and skilled craftsmen, but also in creating an authentic experience throughout all the areas – from locally crafted interior furniture and decorations to the restored Buddhist relics, authentic culinary dishes and traditional spa treatments.
Creating this retreat prevented a “themed” water park from being developed in the valley – which would have been dammed and flooded as a result. Such a large-scale development would have attracted thousands of tourists each year, overwhelming the natural environment (not to mention destroying the valley floor entirely), removing any context and character of that area by transforming the unrestored section of Wall into another tourist trap.