In China they say he who ne climb the Great Wall is not a true man. Considered as one of the “the New Seven Wonders of the World” and the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, The Great Wall, with the Pandas, was once the symbol of China. Even though it’s not true we can see the Great Wall from the Moon, this defensive system of the Great Wall is generally recognized as one of the most impressive architectural feats in history.
During the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period (from 770 B.C to 221B.C), the states of Qin, Wei, Zhao, Qi, Han, Yan, and Zhongshan all constructed the fortifications to defend their borders, because there were lots of battles between the states for expending the territory, while several states began to build these high walls to prevent invasion of the various nomadic groups from the Eurasian Steppe.
After the unification of China by the state of Qin in 221 B.C, for the defense of the northern tribes, Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China, joined together all the walls from today’s Gansu Province to North Korea. From that time, the Great wall was named Wanli Changcheng in Chinese (The Great Wall of Ten Thousands Li, Li is 500 meters in China). In the Han Dynasty (202 B.C- 220 A.D), the emperors extended the Great Wall far into today’s western China to protect Silk Road trade. The following dynasties rebuilt, repaired, and extended the Great Wall to protect the Chinese Empire from northern invaders.
In the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), after 20 times of large-scale construction, the Great Wall was built from Jiayuguan of Gansu province in the west to Hushan of Liaodong Province in the east, with a total length of 8,851.8 kilometers, which is now seen most of the Great Wall.
The governors of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) were originally Manchurians who lived out of the Great Wall. Kangxi, the second emperor and considered the most great emperor of the Qing dynasty by his descendants and successors, ordered that the Great Wall never be built. He thought the hostile relationship between the nations was over and the construction of the Great Wall will cost lots of money and labors.
The Great Wall was never an isolated wall, but a tight system composed of a large number of buildings. Its system is mainly composed of three parts: passes, walls, and beacon Towers.
Passes were major strongholds along the wall, usually built on narrow passages, such as the narrowest point between two mountains, a long corridor between mountains and rivers, and the intersection of streams and valleys. The ramparts of many passes were faced with huge bricks and stones.
Beacon Towers were also called Signal towers. They were used to light fireworks to convey important messages: beacon during the night or smoke signals in the daytime.
The wall itself was the key part of the defensive system. The height of the Great Wall is 7 to 8 meters, the base is 6.5 meters wide while the top is 5.8 meters. In the western deserts the walls were often simple structures of rammed earth, many eastern ramparts were made of bricks or stones. 100 million tones of bricks, stone, and soil were transported and assembled by millions of soldiers, peasants, prisoners, and animals using basic rope, wood, and basket systems.
Actually, the cost of the construction is unknown due to the lack of historical records. According to some legends, hundreds of thousands workers died just during the construction of the Qin dynasty.
Around Beijing, there are some most popular sections to discovery, for example Mutianyu, Jinshanling, Simatai and Badaling.
Mutianyu: Built in 1368 at 73 kilometers away from Beijing, this section with 5400 meters long connects Gubeikou in the east and Juyongguan in the west. Since ancient times, it has been the military stronghold of Beijing. You are advised to take a cableway up to the Great Wall and a toboggan down. The walk on the Great Wall is a bit tiring because its steps are of different heights, but the view is wonderful: you can see the Great Wall zigzags through the hills, and the vegetations.
Jinshanling: In fact this section belongs to the Hebei Province. Located at 130 km northeast of Beijing, Jinshanling is built from 1358 to1389, rebuilt in 1570, and connects Simatai in the east, and Gubeikou in the west. It got its name because it was built on the Big and Little Jinshan Ranges. In spring and autumn, especially May and June, lots of hikers and photographers walk along the Great Wall from Jinshanling to Simatai for the beautiful green mountain scenery and comfortable weather, which takes about 4 hours.
Simatai: 120 km northeast of Beijing, this section of 5.4 km long with 35 beacon towers is separated by a valley into 02 parts. The western part houses 20 well-preserved watchtowers, while the eastern part is much steeper, following more rugged terrain that includes cliff edges and kilometer-high peaks. Now this section is well-known by the hikers because it’s more original.
Badaling: Located at 80 kilometers northwest of Beijing, it was built in 1504 during the Ming Dynasty for protecting the Juyongguan Pass. Badaling was the first section of the wall to be repaired and then be opened to tourists in 1957. It becomes the site of the most visited section of the Great Wall, who receive several millions tourists each year. Every day, there are many public transports for the tourists who want to visit the Badaling Great Wall, for example 02 railways and the 877 bus from the center of Beijing.
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