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The Great Wall of China



The Great Wall of China


The Great Wall of China, one of the greatest wonders of the
world, was enlisted in the World Heritage by UNESCO in 1987.
Just like a gigantic dragon, the Great Wall winds up and down
across deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus,
stretching approximately 8,851.8 kilometers (5,500 miles) from east to west of China.
With a history of more than 2000 years, some of the sections of the great
wall are now in ruins or even entirely disappeared.
However, it is still one of the most appealing attractions all around the world
owing to its architectural grandeur and historical significance.
The Great Wall as we see today was mostly built during the Ming Dynasty. It starts from Shanhaiguan Pass in the east to Jiayuguan Pass in the west traversing provinces of Liaoning, Hebei, Beijing, Tianjin, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Shaanxi and Gansu.

The Great Wall was originally built in the Spring, Autumn, and Warring States Periods as a defensive fortification by the three states: Yan, Zhao and Qin. The Great Wall went through constant extensions and repairs in later dynasties. In fact, it began as independent walls for different states when it was first built, and did not become the "Great" wall until the Qin Dynasty. Emperor Qin Shihuang succeeded in his effort to have the walls joined together to fend off the invasions from the Huns in the north after the unification of China. Since then, the Great Wall has served as a monument of the Chinese nation throughout history. A visit to the Great Wall is like a tour through the history backwards; it brings tourists great excitement in each step of the wall.

The mystery of the construction of the wall is amazing. The construction of the Great Wall, drew heavily on the local resources for construction materials, was carried out in line with the local conditions under the management of contract and responsibility system. A great army of manpower, composed of soldiers, prisoners, and local people, built the wall. The construction result demonstrates the manifestation of the wisdom and tenacity of the Chinese people.

Unfolding a considerable part of Chinese culture beyond the wall.The Great Wall has long been incorporated into Chinese mythology and popular symbolism.

The most beautiful of several legends is about the collapse of a section of the Great Wall caused by Meng Jiangnu, who cried bitterly over the death of her husband in the construction of the Great Wall. This legend has been spread widely through textbooks, folk songs and traditional operas. It is well-known in China.

The China Great Wall Academy has called for greater protection of this important relic. Following a forty-five day long survey of 101 sections of the Wall in different provinces, the China Great Wall Academy reported on December 12, 2002 that the forces of nature and destruction at the hand of mankind are bringing about the gradual reduction of its extent with the result that less than 30% remains in good condition. The Academy has called for greater protection of this important relic.
Make a trip to at least one section of the Great Wall should be a must for your China Trip. Elaborate tour plans make travel comfortable, memorable, enjoyable and informative. See details of our Memorable Highlights Tours.

If you prefer to see the wall in a relatively natural state, visit Simatai, 110km north-east of Beijing. This part of the Wall is the best choice, for it is still in its original state without being developed into a popular tourist attraction due to its distance and little public transportation options.
The history of the Great Wall is said to start from the Spring and Autumn Periods when seven powerful states appeared at the same time. In order to defend themselves, they all built walls and stationed troops on the borders. At that time, the total length of the wall had already reached 3,107 miles, belonging to different states.

In 221 BC, the Emperor Qin absorbed the other six states and set up the first unified kingdom in Chinese history. In order to strengthen his newly born authority and defend the Huns in the north, he ordered connecting the walls once built by the other states as well as adding some sections of his own. Thus was formed the long Qin's wall which started from the east of today's Liaoning Province and ended at Lintao, Gansu Province.
In the Western Han Dynasty, the Huns became more powerful. The Han court started to build more walls on a larger scale in order to consolidate the frontier. In the west, the wall along the Hexi corridor, Yumenguan Pass, and Yangguan Pass was built. In the north, Yanmenguan Pass and Niangziguan Pass in Shanxi were set up. Many more sections of the wall extended to Yinshan Mountain and half of the ancient Silk Road was along the Han's wall.

The Northern Wei, Northern Qi and Northern Zhou Dynasties all built their own sections but on a smaller scale than the walls in the Han Dynasty. The powerful Tang Dynasty saw peace between the northern tribes and central China most of the

The Ming Dynasty is the peak of wall building in Chinese history. The Ming suffered a lot by disturbances from minority tribes such as the Dadan, Tufan and Nuzhen. The Ming court from its first emperor to the last ceaselessly built walls in the north. The main line started from Jiuliancheng near the Yalu River in the east to the Jiayuguan Pass in the west and measured over 4,600 miles. Besides adding many more miles of its own, the Ming emperors ordered enlargement of the walls of previous dynasties into double-line or multi-line walls. For example, out of Yanmenguan Pass were added three big stone walls and 23 small stone walls. Eleven Garrisons were distributed along the main line of the wall. The countless walls, fortresses, and watch towers made the country strongly fortified. In the early Qing Dynasty, some sections of the walls were repaired and several sections were extended. This great engineering work stopped in the middle of the Qing Dynasty.

Owing to its long history, natural disasters and human activities, many sections of the Great Wall are severely damaged and disappearing. Being a world-famous engineering project and witness to the rise and fall of Chinese history, the Great Wall, needs us to take immediate action to protect it!
The history of the construction of the Great Wall can be dated back to the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC - 771 BC). But the wall at that time was only a line of fortresses standing to defend against attacks from the Yanyun (an ancient nomadic tribe in north China). The Period of the Warring States (476 BC - 221 BC) was an era when the seven states (Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei, Qin) were busy engaging in wall-construction for self-defense. Instead of one line, their walls stretched in the four directions and varied in length from several hundred miles to one or two thousand miles. In the Qin Dynasty (221 - 206 BC) the emperor Qin Shihuang ordered his laborers to connect these scattered walls and create some new sections, thus forming a Great Wall in northern and central China in the true sense. The Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) further developed the defensive system of the wall and strengthened it on a larger scale. It pushed the wall construction to its highest peak.

The winding Great Wall is not merely a wall but instead a complete and rigorous defense project composed of countless passes, watchtowers, garrison towns, beacon towers and blockhouses. These fortifications were arranged in certain ways under the control of the military command system at all levels. For example, there were about 1,000,000 soldiers guarding the Ming's wall. The chief military officers were stationed in garrison-towns, while lesser officials and soldiers were stationed in Guan Cheng (the defensive beachhead) and other smaller fortifications. The eleven garrisons were set up along the wall in order to guard the precinct or subsection. The average height of the Ming wall measures 33 feet and the width is about five yards. In low, flat areas the wall was built high and more defense lines were added. In the lofty mountains, the wall was a little lower in order to save the human and financial cost. Sometimes, even steep cliffs served as natural walls to thwart enemies.

Today, the wall has lost its military function, but as a great ancient engineering work, its magnificent beauty and austere structure are still worthy appreciating.
In the north of China, there lies a 8,851.8-kilometer-long (5,500-mile-long) ancient wall. Now well-known as the Great Wall of China, it starts at the Jiayuguan Pass of Gansu Province in the west and ends at the Shanhaiguan Pass of Hebei Province in the east. As one of the Eight Wonders in the world, the Great Wall of China has become the symbol of the Chinese nation and its culture.
Lots of beautiful legends and stories about the Great Wall took place following along the construction, and since that time these stories have spread around the country. Those that happened during construction are abundant, such as Meng Jiangnu's story and the legend of the Jiayuguan Pass.

Meng Jiangnu's story is the most famous and widely spread of all the legends about the Great Wall. The story happened during the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC). It tells of how Meng Jiangnu's bitter weeping made a section of the Great Wall collapse. Meng Jiangnu's husband Fan Qiliang was caught by federal officials and sent to build the Great Wall. Meng Jiangnu heard nothing from him after his departure, so she set out to look for him. Unfortunately, by the time she reached the great wall, she discovered that her husband had already died. Hearing the bad news, she cried her heart out. Her howl caused the collapse of a part of the Great Wall. This story indicates that the Great Wall is the production of tens of thousands of Chinese commoners.

Another legend about the Jiayuguan Pass tells of a workman named Yi Kaizhan in the Ming Dynasty (1368BC-1644BC) who was proficient in arithmetic. He calculated that it would need 99,999 bricks to build the Jiayuguan Pass. The supervisor did not believe him and said if they miscalculated by even one brick, then all the workmen would be punished to do hard work for three years. After the completion of the project, one brick was left behind the Xiwong city gate. The supervisor was happy at the sight of the brick and ready to punish them. However Yi Kaizhan said with deliberation that the brick was put there by a supernatural being to fix the wall. A tiny move would cause the collapse of the wall. Therefore the brick was kept there and never moved. It can still be found there today on the tower of the Jiayuguan Pass.
In addition to the above-mentioned stories about the construction of Great Wall, there are also plenty of stories about current scenic spots. A famous one is the legend of the Beacon Tower. This story happened during the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC-711 BC). King You had a queen named Bao Si, who was very pretty. King You liked her very much, however Bao Si never smiled. An official gave a suggestion that setting the beacon tower on fire would frighten the King's subjects, and might make the queen smile. King You liked the idea. The subjects were fooled and Bao Si smiled at the sight of the chaos. Later enemies invaded Western Zhou, King You set the beacon tower on fire to ask for help. No subjects came to help because they had been fooled once before. Thus, King Zhou was killed by the enemy and Western Zhou came to an end.

Beautiful stories and legends about the Great Wall help to keep alive Chinese history and culture. In each dynasty after the building of the Great Wall, many more stories were created and spread.
Mention of the Great Wall of China evokes an image of a huge dragon flying freely on beautiful mountains. Unfortunately, this great image exists only in the well-protected Great Wall scenic areas, such as the Badaling Great Wall, Mutianyu Great Wall, and Simatai Great Wall. Most other sections lie broken in remote vast grasslands and boundless deserts, exposed to thousands of years of rains, snows and winds. Many were swallowed by sand before becoming known to the world. The matter of protecting the Great Wall cannot be delayed.
The Great Wall, owing to its huge bulk, long length and variant construction materials, is difficult to protect well compared to other relics which can be kept in museums. Besides natural disasters such as storms and earthquakes, the wall also suffers from human sabotage. There are four primary types of man-made sabotages. The first is the taking of bricks, earth and stones from the wall for constructional materials. The second is modern construction (such as the highway building) that develops at the price of damaging the wall. The third is damage caused by tourism access development. In recent years, people have learned the importance of wall protection. Since they innocently repair the wall according to their own imagination without concern for its historical appearance, this is also considered a kind of damage.

Being one of the world cultural and natural heritages, the Great Wall of China, belongs to the world, so everyone has the responsibility to protect it. Visitors should behave themselves on the wall, never defacing the bricks, never moving the bricks and never throwing litterabout. People who live near the wall should not take bricks, stones and earth from the wall to build their own houses, or dig in the wall for sheepfolds or latrines. Officials should complete and enforce relevant regulations and laws. In September of 2006, the State Council promulgated the regulation on the protection of the Great Wall which went into effect on December 1 of the same year.

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