The Great Wall of China undeniably stands as one of the most fascinating wonders in the world. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, it stretches from east to west of China, more precisely from Shanhaiguan to the salt lake of Lop Nur with a size of 5500 miles. The Wall not only flaunts architectural mastery, it also has an interesting historical significance.
By owing its roots to the period of Spring and Autumn, the wall’s first bricks appeared during the 7th century BC, when the states of Zhao, Qi, Wei, Qin, Yan and Zhongshan started constructing fortifications for defensive purposes. At that era, the length of the wall has already breached more than 3000 miles. After 221 BC, the first Emperor of China Qin Shi Huang absorbed all the states and unified the Chinese Kingdom which by consequence led to connecting the old walls built by the states in addition to some added sections. However, little remains of that wall, because it witnessed several rebuilding, maintenance and enhancement processes. Estimation of human cost during that period reached hundreds of thousands of perished workers.
Later, the western Han dynasty along with the northern dynasties gained power and they began building more walls on a larger scale in order to consolidate the borders. Yanmenguan Pass and Niangziguan Pass were set up in the north. The Ming era is perhaps considered as the zenith of the wall’s construction in history. The Ming dynasty faced many hindrances against Manchurian and Mongolian tribes by experiencing long and onerous successive battles. This urged the rulers to invoke a new strategy of defense. Thus the walls were constructed along the northern frontiers of China. The line stretched from Jiuliancheng by the Yalu River in the east to the Jiayuguan Pass in the west and measured more than 4600 miles. The Ming style of building was far more rigid and advanced than the previous ones because the fortifications were enlarged into double lined walls and sometimes multi lined walls consisting of stones and bricks instead of rammed earth. After the Ming rule, especially around the beginning of 17th century, the Great Wall provided strong defense against Manchu invasions at the famous Shanhaiguan pass. In 2009, a portion of the wall was unveiled; it was 180 miles long ranging from the Hushan Mountains of northern Liaioning province to Jiayuguan of western Gansu province. It was reported that this section belongs to the Ming Dynasty period.
Although north segments of Beijing and tourist adjacent locations segments are intact or meticulously enhanced, many other locations are in a rather poor shape. Some sections are bound to be or already have been destroyed mainly because of urban constructions or because of extreme climate conditions.
The Great Wall has served as an ancient and resilient monument throughout the history of China, a rigorous defender that was embodied in Chinese mythology and symbolism, a landmark of a withstanding civilization. Needless to say, the Great Wall demonstrates the wisdom, greatness and tenacity of the Chinese people.
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