Brief Introduction to The Great Wall

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The Great Wall
The Great Wall

A Brief Introduction to the Great Wall

Located in Beijing area, the four sections of the Great Walls refer to Badaling in Yanqing County, which is the earliest developed and the most famous both in China and abroad. It is the outstanding representative of the Great Wall and the quintessence of the Ming dynasty Great Wall.

The Great Wall at Juyongguan

The Great Wall at Juyongguan (330 meters above sea level) in Changping District features “guancheng culture”. Guan (pass) lies within, while cheng (Great Wall) is located outside. Guan resembles a supreme headquarters or command post. The other Great Wall has only one section, but the Great Wall at Juyongguan resembles a complete military castle.

The Great Wall at Mutianyu

The Great Wall at Mutianyu in Huairou District is surrounded by high mountains and, vegetation rate reaches more than 80 percent. Legend relates that Qi Jiguang (1528-87), a famous Ming general, who won many battles in Southeast China, designed the watchtowers at Mutianyu. A number of his soldiers were from South China, and perhaps they influenced the architectural style of the brick watchtowers—the shape of the lookout openings at the tops of the towers greatly resembles a fence design popular in that region.

The Simatai Great Wall

The Simatai Great Wall in Miyun County features many aspects, including a strategic pass, being carpeted by a dense growth of foliage strange mirages 、superb craftsmanship excelling nature panorama, is the only section, which retains the original appearance of the ancient Great Wall. Luo Zhewen, Great Wall expert said: “China’s Great Wall is the world’s most, but Simatai section of the Great Wall is reputed as the most of china’s Great Wall.”
The Simatai Great Wall, 110 kilometers northeast of Beijing, has 135 watchtowers.The 19-kilometre wall is dangerous to climb but splendid to view as it meanders up and down the mountain ridges that seem to have been sliced on both sides by a huge axe. The Wangjinglou Watchtower on a steep cliff 986 meters above sea level is the summit of the Simatai Great Wall and also the most dangerous place to reach, because the visitor must walk over some paths, including the “scaling ladder” and “Overline Bridge” before reaching it. The “scaling ladder” is a slope at an angle of 60-70 degrees: the visitor must climb on all fours and be extremely careful. The “overline bridge” is a path about 100 meters long and less than one meter wide, which crosses abysses about 500 meters deep. With nothing to hold on to, the slightest wind will make the visitor tremble with fear. Because of dangers involved in reaching Wangjinglou, only a few people have ever set foot on the tower in modern times.

The Badaling Great Wall

The Badaling (meaning Eight Prominent Peaks) section (totalling 7,441 meters open to the public) is the best-preserved part of the wall. Several renovations have taken place since 1949. In 1961 the State Council placed the Great Wall on the list of cultural sites to be accorded special protection. The Great Wall runs 629 kilometers in the Beijing area. More than 100 kilometers are well preserved and four other sections at Badaling, Juyongguan, Mutianyu, and Simatai have already been restored for tourists both at home and abroad of all the great wonder in the Beijing area, the Great Wall ranks first.

The World Heritages

The Great Wall is the great creation of ancient Chinese people. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) listed it as one of the World Heritages in 1987.

The Great Wall, symbolizing China’s ancient civilization, is one of the world’s most renowned projects. It is a distance of 75 kilometers northwest of Beijing. Its highest point at Badaling is some 800 meters above sea level. A well-known popular saying goes: “He who hasn’t been to the Great Wall is not a true man.”/ “You are not a plucky hero till you climb the Great Wall.” If you fail to reach the Great Wall, you are not a man.” Therefore, everyone tries to make it.

Construction of the Wall first began during the period of the Warring States

Formerly, walls were built at strategic points by different kingdoms to protect their northern territories. In 221 BC after the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty unified China, he decided to have the walls linked up and extended. The Qin Dynasty, the first and shortest dynasty (only 15 years from 221 to 206 BC) in Chinese history, has left behind a rich legacy: for instance, the Great Wall, the mausoleum of its first emperor, protected for over 2,000 years by the thousands of terracotta warriors excavated only in the 1970s and 1980s. These two wonders of human endeavour have been accompanied with stories of another legendary creation–the Epang Palace, which was believed to be the largest and most luxurious palace in Chinese history. The classic Shi Ji (Records of the Historian), written by Sima Qian (c.145 or 135 BC? said that Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, forced 700,000 residents to construct the Epang Palace in 212 BC). Construction was suspeneded two years later, when the emperor died and the labourers were forced to build his mausoleum. Construction of the palace was started again in 209 BC at the order of his successor, the second emperor of the Qin Dynasty. The young emperor (his name being Hu Hai, 230-207 BC, reigned 210-207 BC; younger son of Emperor Qin Shihuang) then put to jail his two prime ministers and one general, who dared to speak for the poverty-stricken people and to object to the construction of the great palace. The young emperor killed himself in 207 BC, when Xiang Yu (232-202 BC), leader of the peasant uprising against him, broke into his capital, Xianyang, in today’s Shaanxi Province. Xiang yu’s men carried out massacres in the city and burned in Xianyang, near Xi’an, Shaanxi Province. The fires burned for three months, according to Sima Qian, a famous historian of the 2nd century BC, the author of the Historical Records, which was the first complete general history of China.

How Long Is The Great Wall

The Great Wall stretches for more than 6,300 kilometers (roughly the distance from the US cities of Miami, Florida to Seattle, Washington—less than 20 percent of the Great Wall built during the Ming Dynasty is still intact), rising and falling, twisting and turning along the ridges of the Yanshan and Yinshan mountain chains, traversing nine provincial-level regions such as Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hebei, Beijing, Tianjin, and Liaoning. Chinese archaeologists claimed that they have found sections of the Great Wall in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the northwest and in Shandong Province in the east in recent years, bring the total length to 7,200 kilometers.

Ten Thousand Li Long Wall

Historical records show that about one million people, one-twentieth of china’s population at the time, were involved in the mammoth project, which took more than ten years. When it was finished we call it “Wan Li Chang Cheng” which means “Ten Thousand Li Long Wall.” Now, nature has taken over most of the Great Wall.

The Great Wall, which we are going to visit, was rebuilt in the 1505 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It extends from Shanhai ( Mountain and Sea) Pass, a seaport along the coast of Bohai Bay, to Jiayu Pass in Gansu Province.

Today, the Great Wall is not only a simple scenic area or scenic spot, it has enhanced the sense of self-respect and sense of pride as well. The Great Wall has occupied a very important historical position and function of the world cultural heritage, and more importantly involves politics, economy, culture, military affairs and the sphere of architecture and its high value of exploring, developing and studying in terms of historical value, military function, architectural art, engineering technology, aesthetics value and ethnic group’s exchange.

In ancient times, there were many places of strategic importance along the Great Wall. Fortresses were constructed at strategic points, Beacon towers, also known as Wolves’ Dung smoke Tower, were built on both sides of the Wall at commanding points. A primitive signal system did exist that served to communicate military information to the imperial capital. This consisted of beacon towers on the Wall itself and on mountaintop within sight of the Wall. At the approach of enemy troops, smoke of wolves’ dung burnt signals was used. When the wolves’ dung was burnt, the milky white smoke suddenly rose to the sky like a shape of a huge mushroom; the smoke did not disperse easily but could last for a long time. This gave the alarm from the beacon towers in the daytime and campfires did this at night. Although it was primitive, it proved very effective in ancient China. The number of enemy troops decided the number of heaps of wolves’ dung and bonfires. Emergency signals could be relayed to the capital from distant places within a few hours long before the invention of anything like modern communications. According to a recent survey, the length of the Great Wall totals 629 kilometers embracing 827 watch towers and beacon (guard) towers of various kinds and 71 passes in Beijing area.

Before the Ming Dynasty, the Wall was built mainly of earth and rock. Under the Ming, it was rebuilt in most places with bricks and stones. For instance, the section at Badaling near Beijing was faced with slabs of rock and large bricks and filled with earth and stones. It is 6 to 7 meters high. At regular intervals along the southern side of the Great Wall, there are gates with stone steps leading to the top of the Wall. The top surface of the Wall is paved with three or four layers of large bricks. It is 4 to 5 meters wide, enough for five horsemen to ride abreast. Along the Wall, there are parapets and battlements built of bricks and turrets and watchtowers at regular intervals. There are ramparts, embrasures, peep-holes, and apertures for archers on the top, besides gutters with gargoyles (a roof spout carved to represent a grotesque human or animal figure, and projected from a gutter to carry rainwater clear of the wall) to drain rainwater off the parapet walk. The top storeys of the watch-towers were designed for observing enemy movements, while the first was used for storing grain, fodder, military equipment and gunpowder, as well as for quartering garrison soldiers. The highest watchtower at Badaling stands on a hilltop and is reached only after a steep climb, like “climbing a ladder to heaven.” The Great Wall follows the contour of mountains that rise one behind the other until they finally fade and merge with distant haze. The long climb to the top is rewarded with a magnificent view over the Great Wall, and the wooded countryside. The higher the traveller goes up the Great Wall, the more strenuous the climb becomes. The Yanshan Hills in the northern part of the city provide a natural defence for Beijing.

The Great Wall, built originally as a military structure, holds great significance for the Chinese people. In imperial times, it served as the division between territories, cultures, military forces and different lifestyles. Now it is probably the most widely recognized symbol of the country’s spirit.The Great Wall is more than just a piece of ancient architecture or an unusual defence work.For example, its many arrow holes are holes of different types: some are simple and plain; others are caved with beautiful patterns.

The great Wall is the great creation of ancient Chinese people. The Wall traverses mountains and gullies. It was extremely difficult to build along steep slopes under harsh conditions. Some of the slabs of rock were as long as two meters and weighed as much as one ton. All the rocks, bricks and lime had to be carried up the mountains at the cost of backbreaking labour. The earth and bricks were passed up from hand to hand or carried in baskets by donkeys and goats. The large slabs were moved up slopes by means of rolling rods and hoisting bars. The Great Wall is actually a series of walls built and rebuilt by different dynasties over the past 2,000 years. Construction began in the reign of China’s first emperor, Ying Zheng (259-210 BC, reigned 246-210 BC) of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), and lasted into the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 ). The parts built before the Ming Dynasty has nearly disappeared. The Ming sections, which spiral about 6, 300 kilometers from northeastern to northwestern China, comprise what common people typically consider the Great Wall. About 30 kilometers of the Great Wall in Beijing area that have been exploited as tourist destinations. According to rough calculation, the amount of bricks and rock used to build the Wall would have been enough to build a wall five meters high and one meter thick around the world. Of all the ancient Chinese buildings, the Great Wall is the greatest.

Protect the Great Wall

A team consisting of 20 experts and 30 journalists finished a 45-day investigation trip along the Ming Dynasty Great Wall in October 2003. The field study was organized by the Great Wall society of China. They found that the Great Wall was crumbling, unable to withstand natural deterioration and damages caused by people. Unlike other cultural relics that are geographically concentrated the Great Wall with its massive length can never be locked away or supervised by only one administrative unit. Therefore, local governments at both the county and township levels bear a heavy and important responsibility to protect it. Over the past few years, some experts have discovered a number of problems that are troubling. Some Great Wall bricks have been taken away and used by local rural people to build their houses, sheepfolds, and pigsties. Some parts were demolished to give way for the construction of roads and residential buildings. Bricks from well-known sections of the Great Wall carved with people’s names have become souvenirs. Rubbish is strewn over the battlements Farmers employed as rangers to walk along the Wall picking up garbage it is part of the stewardship project at the Wall at Huairou District, Beijing, initiated by the International Friends of the Great Wall in 2000.