China Popular Itineraries
| The Great Wall is one of the most magnificent constructions in ancient China, and has become the symbol of China.
The Great Wall first appeared in the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period. During that time China was divided into many states under the governance of dukes. In order to protect themselves from the attack of their neighbors, these kingdoms began building the walls along the endan-gered areas.
After the unification of China, the First Emperor of Qin (259-210 B. C. ) took measures to ward off invasion by the Xiongnu tribe, an an-cient nationality in China. He linked up different sections of the walls which had been built in the time of Qin, Zhao, and Yan states. At this time it was first called the Great Wall of Ten Thousand li. The Qin Great Wall stretched from Lintao, which is situated in today' s Min County, Gansu Province in the north to Liaodong in the east, covering more than 5,000 km. While building the new walls, the First Emperor of Qin also tore down certain old ones. He did this to facilitate better communication among different parts of the coun-try.
During the 15 years of the Qin Dynasty, when the First Emperor of Qin had conquered the six states and unified China, the tribe dared not go south to harass the people. So we can see that the construction of the Great Wall was an effective way of defending the country at that time.
Later on, the Great Wall was repaired and added to intermittently in the north, along the borders of the nomadic tribes, in the dynasties of Han, NorthernWei, Northern Qi, Northern Zhou, and Sui. Emperor Wudi gave orders to repair and strengthen the Qin Great Wall and the Great Wall of the Han Dynasty stretched from Liaodong in the east to Salt Marsh -- today's Xinjiang in the west. This was to open up the passage leading to the western region on the Silk Road and to ward off invasion by the Xiongnu tribe effec-tively. Today it is hard to find the remains of the Han Great Wall in the east-ern part of China. However, some remains of the wall are scattered in the northwest of China.
Most of the walls we see today were built in the Ming Dynasty to guard against the Mongolians and Nuzhen minority nationality' s invasions and ha-rassments. The Ming rulers paid a lot of attention to the construction of the great Wall. The Ming Great Wall was repaired and built more than 18 times during the years from 1368 A.D. to 1620 A.D. It stretched from the Yalu River in the east to Jiayuguan in the west, covering more than 5,000 km. However, Shanhaiguan is generally considered as the eastern terminal of the Ming Wall because the section from the Yalu River to Shanhaiguan was poorly built. The technology used in building the Great Wall was greatly improved during this period and thus the wall served as a better defence.
The Qing Dynasty did not continue building the Great Wall. This was because Emperor Kangxi sharply criticized the First Emperor of the Qin Dy-nasty for spending too much in such a huge project and it unavoidably failed to save his empire in the end. Therefore Kangxi adopted a new policy. Instead of repairing and building the Great Wall he built the Summer Resort at Rehe to please the Mongolian and Tibetian nobles.
The Great Wall can be viewed as a huge defensive project. It consists of three parts -- the military passes, the walls, and the beacon towers.
The military passes were usually located at the key sections of the Great Wall. Each pass had its own fortresses, gates, gate towers, and trap enclo-sures, some even had enclosing walls and moats. The soldiers were garrisoned at these military sections. Among the passes, Shanhaiguan Pass is considered as "the World's First Pass. "
The wall itself was a major part of the construction. The average height of the wall was 7 to 8 meters. The principle used in building the wall was to take advantage of the steep terrain to construct defence work. At the places where the terrain was steep, the height of the wall did not reach too high. But when the terrain was not that steep, the wall had to be built much high-er. The base of the wall was about 6.5 meters wide and the top part was 5.8 meters wide. The wall was fitted with the outside wall, which was about 2 meters high and the inside wall one meter high. The outside wall was c0n-structed with battlements. Each had two holes. The small one was for watch-ing for approaching enemies and the other underneath it was for shooting. On both the outside and inside wall, there were holes or ditches for draining off the water.
Wall terraces were built on the wall where soldiers could be stationed to keep watch and to fight invading troops. There were battlements and shooting holes placed around. Shelters were built on the platform for keeping soldiers on patrol from wind and rain.
The style, method, and structure varied from dynasty to dynasty. The wall was built with different materials depending on its location and position on the slope. The construction of the Great Wall required tremendous amounts of materials, and most were taken from nearby sites. On high mountains the materials used were stones, while on the plains earth was used. In desert areas the walls were built with reeds and tamarisk twigs layered with sand. Gener-ally speaking, there were five types of wall. the wall built of packed earth, the wall built of slacked and undried bricks, the brick wall, the stone wall, and the brick and stone wall.
Fortifications were built outside or inside the wall, on the hills or cliffs which commanded vast fields of vision. These towers were called beacon tow-ers. They were used specifically for transmitting military information. Smoke was used in the daytime and fire was lit at night to deliver military messages. Wolf excrements were added to the fuel so the smoke was very thick. By us-ing this method a message can be transmitted more than five hundred kilome-ters within several hours. People are amazed at the magnificent design and grand construction of the wall. They also wonder at the great intelligence of the laboring people. The manpower necessary for building the Great Wall came from both soldiers and common people. The Great Wall built in the time of the Qin Dynasty was built by 300,000 soldiers. It took them nine years to complete the construction. In ancient time there were no trucks and cranes. Without modern machinery and easy transportation, construction was ex-tremely difficult. The most primitive way was to use hands, baskets or shoul-der poles, and rolling logs. The workers and technicians created many ways to save their climbing up and down the hill. It is said that the labor involved in building the Great Wall would have been adequate to build 30 Egyptian pyra-mids.
The Great Wall shocks the world with its imposing manner. It belongs not only to China but also to the world.