The Great Wall of China is the ultimate symbol of China. It’s mentioned in the National Anthem, it’s on bank notes, and it’s used to sell anything from red wine to automobiles. The Great Wall is one of the ‘Eight Wonders of the World’ and is enlisted in the World Heritage Directory. This immense wall was built to keep out invaders as well as to retain the inhabitants. It spans five provinces (6,700 kilometers, or 2,587 miles) and stretches East to West from Shanhaiguan on the Yellow Sea to the Gobi Desert’s Jiayuguan, a fortress traditionally viewed as the last outpost of civilization.
The Chinese refer to the wall as Changcheng (长城), or as the 10,000 Li Great Wall (万里长城-Wan Li Changcheng), a li being a measure of distance equal to 500m. If we laid the bricks and rocks used in the Great Wall of Ming to form a wall one meter (1.1 yard) wide and five meters (16.4 feet) high, it could circle the earth at the equator with great ease. It is such a spectacular and formidable architectural feat that anyone who comes to China should not miss it under any circumstances.
This amazing marvel of engineering took over 2,000 years to build. It is acclaimed to be a most magnificent miracle created by the Chinese people demonstrating the tenacity, diligence and wisdom of the Chinese people.
Construction of the wall began early in the Warring States Period (475 BC – 221 BC) when independent small states came into existence. In order to defend their territories, long walls were built along the borders. In 221 BC, Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC – 206 BC), toppled the former states and unified China. To protect the country from intrusion of the nomadic Hun ethnic minority in the north, earlier separate walls were joined and extended dramatically. The walls at that time began at Linyao in Gansu Province and ended in Liaoning Province, reaching a total length of over 5,000 kilometers, hence it was known as the ‘Ten Thousand Li Great Wall’ (Li is a unit of length used by the Chinese and one li is equal to 0.5 kilometer.).
Thereafter, the Great Wall was restored and lengthened time and time again. The later walls were not a long and frail wall but were complete fortifications with more annexes such as: castles, watch towers and beacon towers. In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), large-scale extensions generated the ‘Great Wall of Ming’, the ever longest wall in the history of China. The wall that we see today is primarily the result of a restoration that took place during the Ming Dynasty. However, some sections fell into ruins.