The Great Wall of China The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is one of the Seven Medieval Wonders of the World and one of the world’s great feats of engineering. One of the biggest construction tasks ever finished - China’s Great Wall is an enduring monument to the strength of an ancient civilization. The Wall was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
China’s iconic Great Wall, known as Long Wall of 10,000 Li (10,000 Li = about 5,000 km) is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood and other materials; it winds its way westward above the vast territory of China from the bank of the Yalu River and ends at the foot of snow-covered Qilianshan and Tianshan mountains. The purpose of this massive project was to protect China against marauding barbarians from the north. The product of countless labors, was built over a period of two thousand years.
A comprehensive archaeological survey has concluded that the world's longest human-made structure measure 8,850 km (5,500 mi); of that total 6,259 km (3,889 mi) sections of actual wall, 359 km (223 mi) of trenches and 2,232 km (1,387 mi) of natural defensive barriers (hills, rivers etc.).
A first set of walls were built of earth and stones in wood frames during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE). He took the remnants of ancient fortification walls belonging to different states and linked them into a unified wall. At that time, the total length of the wall had already reached over 3,000 km (1,860 mi). Over the next millennium, some modifications and additions were made to these walls but the main construction of the modern walls began in the Ming Dynasty (1388-1644 CE) - The Great Wall was enlarged to 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles) and renovated over a 200 year period. Established in new areas from the Qin Walls, the Ming fortifications were 4.6 - 9.1 meters (15 - 30 feet) wide at the base, up to 7.6 meters (25 feet) high and 2.7 - 3.7 meters (9 - 12 feet) wide at the top. Watch towers were established at regular intervals.
Nevertheless, Mongol invaders had no trouble breaching the wall since the Great Wall was discontinuous. So the wall was proved unsuccessful and eventually abandoned. A policy of mollification during the subsequent Ch'ing Dynasty that sought to pacify the Mongol leaders through religious conversion also helped to limit the need for the wall.
The construction of the Great Wall was mainly depended on human labor. The earth, wood, stones and bricks were carried on human’s back or lifted by the bar. Some simple machines such as varied handcarts, crowbars and wheels were also used to create the Wall. Because some sections of the Great Wall were built on the crests, animals were also used to transport the building materials.
Through Western contact with China from the 17th through 20th centuries, the legend of the Great Wall of China grew along with tourism to the wall. Rebuilding and restoration took place in the 20th century; owing to natural disasters, its long history and human activities, many sections of the Great Wall were destroyed. Mao Zedong himself encouraged destruction of parts of the wall and reuse of its materials in the 1950s; rural farmers still make use of the wall’s earth and stone for practical purposes. About 50% of the original ancient structure has already disappeared and about 30% lies crumbling into ruins.
The three most visited Great Wall locations are near and north of Beijing:
  • Badaling - is the most popular Great Wall of China site for tourists, mainly because it is close to Beijing and is the easiest to access. Badaling is 7.8 meters (25.6 ft) high, 5 meters (16.4 ft) wide and about 80 km (50 mi) in length; it receives thousands of tourists each day. The Badaling section was built about 500 years ago and was renovated over the last several decades. Badaling has handicapped access towards the Wall, and quite a few restaurants and souvenir stands. It is home to the Fantastic Wall Museum which facts the history of the wall in displays and a theater presentation; the museum is closed on Mondays.
  • Shixiaguan - is the closest section to Beijing. This section is open to the public although is currently being reconstructed. Spectacular views can be seen while going to the Badaling section. Climbing may be a real adventure - the Shixiaguan wall ascends a long, very steep slope.
  • Mutianya - is located an hour farther away from Beijing than Badaling. This is a great opportunity to escape the crowds - just fewer vacation tour groups will travel to it only because it is a little bit far away from Beijing. This Great Wall of China site is remarkable. The incline of the wall at Mutianya is noticeably steeper than Badaling's. For tourists who for various reasons, choose not to walk up the wall, there is a cable car.
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