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Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is a symbol of ancient Chinese civilization and a personification of wisdom of the ancient Chinese people. At the ancient times the Chinese wall was a complex system of defense, while at the present it has become an object of note that attracts millions of tourists annually.

In September of 2008 I and my friends Sergei Vishnyakov and Paul Kokh chanced to go to and conquer the Great Chinese wall. We decided to take the wall 70 km north of Beijing, that is, in the area of the mountain range Badalin. It is called Chinese also because of the fact that it is visited by tourists “as many as there are Chinese.”

The Great Wall of China is winding in the northern regions of China as a giant dragon; its total length is 5.660 kilometers from east to west. The Wall can be well seen from a plane as you fly up to Beijing if there is no fog, of course.

The first sections of the would-be Great Wall of China (earthworks) were built during the Warring States Period, that is, in VII century B.C. for defense against northern nomadic tribes. The rulers of Qin, Wei, Zhao, Qi, Yan and other small states began to construct fortifications around their territories, usually in the way of earthworks with a patrol path and watchtowers above. Altogether the building of the Great Wall lasted around 2000 years.

“The first emperor” Qin Shi Huang, who unified China, ordered in 221 B.C. the connecting of the sections of the defensive constructions of the former kingdoms of Qin, Yan and Zhao facing the heaths of the Huns into one line. In this way the Great Wall of China, around 5.000 kilometers long, appeared. Many dynasties after “the first emperor” continued the building of the Wall for defense. An especially vast scale of building occurred at the time of the Qin (221-206 B.C.) and Ming (1368 – 1644) dynasties. By the time of the Qin dynasty the length of the wall was more than ten thousand lis (li =500 meters).

The Great Wall of China we can see today is mainly constructed by the Ming dynasty. The Wall of the Ming epoch in the east began from the Huashan Mountains in Liaodong and ended in Jiayuguan in Gansu Province passing 9 Provinces, autonomic districts and cities of central subordination such as Liaoning, Hebei, Tianjin, Beijing, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia and Gansu.

Nevertheless, the Great Wall of China did not fulfill its main purpose. Conquerors from the north surmounted it many times. Genghis Khan’s army did it in 1215, and in 1644 general Wu Sangui at Shanhaiguan pass opened the gates, and the Manchu army seized the Wall. The Great Wall of China, however, remembers several cases of its strength. In 1554 in the Jinshanling section of the Wall attacks of Mongolian troops numbering tens of thousand of people were repulsed. A Mongolian attack was repulsed also in 1561, only it happened at Badalin, which was visited by your humble servant and his companions.

After 1644 the Great Wall of China was completely swallowed by the Empire and turned out to be within the country’s territory and ceased to be the border.

In the structure and design of the Great Wall of China wisdom of Chinese strategists and builders can be seen. Forts and fortresses at passes guarded the main roads leading to the Heavenly Empire. At the building of the Great Wall of China local resources and topographic features were used to the maximum. Therefore, as relief changes the height and length of the Wall changes as well. The chain of watchtowers was used for observation of the near-border territories. Each tower as a rule had two levels; the upper one was used as an observatory platform, while the first level was a place of rest for soldiers that came off guard. Thanks to a system of signal towers, on top of which fires were burnt, alert signal passed through quickly. Manipulating by smoke or covering the fire in the dark time of the day by a cloth “telegraphers” of the signal towers were able to pass simple signals informing about the direction and size of a threat.

In fact, there is no unified Great Wall of China; the Wall consists of many sections built at different times. The myth about the Great Wall of China as one structure appeared in Europe in XVI century mainly because travelers and researchers did not properly verify the facts. And the most important thing is that the Chinese themselves believed that.

There is another myth according to which it was believed that the Great Wall of China apart from being a defensive fortification is also a huge cemetery. The legend – and most likely not the legend but the grape-vine – has it that the bodies of the workers that died during the building were immured into the wall. In fact, the Chinese are not stupid; they knew perfectly well that an immured body will one day decay, and a void will be in its place that will weaken the building’s structure. Almost no information about the builders of the Great Wall of China, especially its earliest sections, has been preserved. It is known only that under the Ming dynasty the wall was erected or it is more correct to say mended and strengthened by soldiers and craftsmen.

Today the Great Wall of China is a monument built by the Chinese people themselves. The wall fulfilled its historical purpose and is now a valuable witness of history.

The Chinese say that whoever has not climbed the Great Wall of China is not a good brick.

Renting a car with a driver to take you to the Great Wall of China costs around 100 USD. And for that money the driver will pick you up in a hotel in Beijing, drive you to the Wall, which is around 70 kilometers away from Beijing, and will wait for you to come back after a walk on the Wall. A ride on the cable railway costs 50 Chinese yuans, a ticket to the Wall – around 30 yuans. At the conquering of the Great Wall of China in one of the towers you will be given a certificate verifying your conquering of the Great Wall of China as well as a “golden” medal. Only you will have to pay for all that another 250 yuans. But it is worth it!

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