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.
No one can tell precisely when the building of the Great Wall was started but it is popularly believed that it originated as a military fortification against intrusion by tribes on the borders during the earlier Zhou Dynasty. Late in the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC - 476 BC), the ducal states extended the defence work and built "great" structures to prevent the attacks from other states. It was not until the Qin Dynasty that the separate walls, constructed by the states of Qin, Yan and Zhao kingdoms, were connected to form a defensive system on the northern border of the country by Emperor Qin Shi Huang (also called Qin Shi Huangdi by westerners or the First Emperor). After the emperor unified the country in 214 BC, he ordered the construction of the wall. It took about ten years to finish and the wall stretched from Linzhao (in the eastern part of today's Gansu Province) in the west to Liaodong (in today's Jilin Province) in the east. The wall not only served as a defence in the north but also symbolized the power of the emperor.
Construction 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.The Great Wall is reputed as one of the seven construction wonders in the world not only for its long history, but its massive construction size, and its unique architectural style as well.
The construction of the Great Wall began between the 7th and 8th centuries B.C. when the warring states built defensive walls to ward off enemies from the north. It was only a regional project then. Until the Qin Dynasty, the separate walls were joint together and consequently it stretched from east to west for about 5000 thousand kilometers and served to keep nomadic tribes out. The Wall was further extended and strengthened in the succeeding dynasties. Especially during the Ming dynasty when the northern nomadic ethnic groups became very powerful, the Ming rulers had the Wall renovated 18 times. As a result, not the remains from the Qin dynasty were restored, but some 1000 kilometers were constructed to a full length of 6,700 kilometers.
The architectural style of the Great wall is a marvel in the history of construction in the world. Since the weaponry only consisted of swords and spears, lances and halberds, and bows and arrows in the ancient times, walls with passes, watchtowers, signal towers, together with moats became an important strategy. To ensure the safety of the dynasties, the feudal rulers strove to improve the construction of the Great Wall after it took shape in the Qin dynasty. In particular, the Ming dynasty saw the creation of a sophisticated defense system along the wall embracing garrison towns, garrison posts, passes, blockhouses, additional wall structures, watchtowers and beacon towers, each given a different status and designed mission. The system enabled the imperial court to stay in touch with military and administrative agencies at various levels, including those at the grassroots, and provided the frontier troops with facilities to carry out effective defense
The Great wall we see today is mostly from the Ming dynasty. With an average height of 10 meters and a width of 5 meters, the wall runs up and down along the mountain ridges and valleys from east to west. It stands as a witness of the Chinese history, culture and development.
Culture of the wall
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.
Travel of the wall
Elaborate tour plans make travel comfortable, memorable, enjoyable and informative.
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. .
Today, the Wall has become a must-see for every visitor to China. Few can help saying 'Wow!' when they stand on top of a beacon tower and look at this giant dragon. For centuries, the wall served succeeding dynasties as an efficient military defence. However, it was only when a dynasty had weakened from within that invaders from the north were able to advance and conquer. Both the Mongols (Yuan Dynasty, 1271-1368) and the Manchurians (Qing Dynasty, 1644-1911) were able take power because of weakness of the government and poverty of the people but never due to any possibility of weakness of the Wall.