History of the Great Wall of China

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I first went to China last year to study for a semester.The feeling I had when I arrived there,was something that can not be explained in words.I felt scared because I was so small in such a big city.Day by day,I started to feel much more comfortable,to become more familiar with the places,the people and even with Chinese food.Back then,I did not realize what this experience would mean to me. After studying a semester in a city near Shanghai, I decided to go to visit Beijing,the great capital of China. There, I had the opportunity to see the Great Wall and I was impressed by its immensity, hence my reason for choosing this topic for my final paper.

Known as the "seventh wonder of the world", the Great Wall, which stretches for over Chinese territory of more than 7000 kilometers, is the largest building of the ancient military defense and it took longer to build. This colossal wall began to rise in the 9th century . The people who dominated the central plains , for example, the middle and lower basin of the Yellow River , decided to defend themselves from the attacks of the northern village with a wall that joined the walls , the beacons and castles located along the border and from which they could watch the movements of the enemy. In the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States , between 700 and 221 BC , the feudal lords lived locked in endless wars to achieve hegemony. The most powerful lords defended each other with walls that rose landforms advantage of border areas . After 221 BC , when Qin Shi Huang , the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty unified China , the existing walls were linked . The formidable defensive barrier thus formed , crossing the mountains of the northern border , served to repel the attacks of the nomadic ethnic groups mounted on horseback, from the Mongolian steppes . At that time , the length of the Great Wall was well over 5000 miles. The Han Dynasty, successor to the Qin , was lengthened to more than 10 thousand kilometers. Over the next 2000 years , the total length of the different sections of the Great Wall reached more than 50 thousand kilometers , enough to circle the Earth length.

Today when we talk about the Great Wall, we often refer to the constructed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).It starts at the Jiayu Pass in western Gansu Province, through 9 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, and ends on the banks of Yalu River in the northeastern province of Liaoning. Its length is 7,300 kilometers, or 14 thousand li, hence also known as the Great Wall of 10,000 li.

The wall , built with huge bricks, masonry , crushed stone and loess , has a height of about 10 meters. The width of the top between 4 and 5 meters , allowing the simultaneous step 4 horsemen and thus facilitated the movement of combat units such as the transport of grain and weapons. Inside the walls were stairs and corridors leading to the doors. The wall was punctuated by towers that were used to store weapons and cereal for the rest of the soldiers and as a refuge in time of war . It is also used as beacons to warn of the presence of enemy fire or smoke signals .

Of course, today the Great Wall no longer meets any military function. But its stunning architecture has won and continues to win the heart of many people .

The beauty of the Great Wall is manifested in its majesty , its strength, its greatness and its naturalness.

Seen from a distance , the high wall extends along the ridges of mountain ranges clearly tracing the silhouette of a giant flying dragon , close up view , the powerful appeal of your fabulous sketch, formed by imposing steps , walls that appear to move in perceived zigzag and steep ups and platforms.In one word,a loveliness.

To the historical and cultural value of the Great Wall we can add also the tourism value . The Chinese often say : " He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a real person ." Tourists , whether Chinese or foreigners , are proud to have gone to the Great Wall . The many heads of state and government who have visited China are no exception . Several well-preserved sections have become points of tourist interest , which every year attracts thousands of visitors. Among the best known include Badaling Pass , Platform Shimatai , Mutianyu, Shanhaiguan Pass , also known as First Step of China, and Jiayuguan Pass , the western end of the Great Wall.

The Great Wall of China is an internationally recognisable icon and is a pervasive metaphor used to define modern China’s national character, political attitude. Is a set of monumental man-made structures that has stood the test of time, much like the centuries’ old Chinese culture. It has also come to embody the rich history of the Chinese people, indicative of their strength and ability as a nation. This Wall has come to represent quintessential Chinese attributes in contemporary society and it is central to how China defines itself. However, there is no single ‘Great Wall’. It is a set of walls,as I said before, built sporadically over thousands of years by different dynasties for varying purposes.

The Great Wall, crystallization of wisdom, hard work, blood and sweat of millions of workers in ancient China, has worthily survived over a thousand years of vicissitudes. Her perpetual martial and timeless appeal have become a symbol of the spirit of the Chinese nation. Since 1987, the Great Wall is considered a world heritage.

Chapter one

The history of The Great Wall

Year of construction

The history of the Great Wall began in 221 BC during the Qin dynasty when were first built 5,000 miles in two stages from four to six years ( 214-210 B.C ) . During the second stage , the wall was built along the Yellow and the Tao River,simultaneously being built 44 cities and established 44 administrative units.The population brought in these cities had provided the maintenance and the expansion of the wall.During the Han Dynasty, its length reached 10,000 kilometers.Only few sections of the impressive construction of Han Dynasty had been kept until today.The new section of the Great Wall dates from the Ming Dynasty, and in 270 years,the emperors opened 50 places in which people had the opportunity to work.The wall, during the Ming Dynasty, crossed nine provinces and autonomous regions by measuring 8851.8 km and having the best technical and military qualities . From the entire length over 6,000 miles were built by Ming emperor’s people.

Types of wall construction

To build,, the seventh wonder of the world’’, the Chinese have used five types of wall construction.

The first one was rammed earth,an old construction technique, used in the loess plateau from Datong to Jiayuguan and in Inner Mongolia. In essence, the rammed earth was predominant .Other types used were adobe,stone,brick and cliff.

It is said that a fifth of China's population at some point participated in its construction. It is also said that the Great Wall of China is the largest cemetery in the world, because during its construction more than 10 million workers died and were buried there. If were taken all the bricks that were used to build the Great Wall of China during the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese could build a high wall that can give five turns to Earth.

The main difficulty was that, to achieve a strategic advantage , they had to took advantage of the terrain(producing accidents) , and in the tops of the mountains were localized fortifications that could maintain a good surveillance of the land, and there was where soldiers lived and where they had provisions and armaments.

The materials they used were different and depended on what could be used in each area they built. The Qin and Han was built mainly with soil , clay, reeds , wood and stones. The Ming, 15 centuries later, used mud bricks and carved stones. In some sections of the Wall, to certify the quality of the bricks , each manufacturer imprinted his seal on them, and the date of delivery. Stone pavers were cut and shipped from distant quarries , some of them came to weigh a ton and were up to 3 meters.

The Ming built in two stages: first raised two walls and then the space between them was filled . The base was wider than the top . Then were built forts and battlements where guns were placed. To prevent erosion by rain, a whole drainage system was devised .

The tedious work , the poor diet , the whether , and the enemies that continually kept coming , affected the workers . It is estimated that Ming took advantage of 100 workers .

The nomads attacked and broke the defenses in many parts of the Wall, but he had already fulfilled the task of sending the alarm to the place where the army was placed.

They had a system of smoke signals in detailing the attack and how many enemies were destroyed . Later, the Ming , in addition to smoke signals , had used a code for guns to give the alarm.

The wall has a height between seven and ten meters. Its base measures about seven meters and six upper hand . The floors were paved using a mixture of stone and mortar , supported by tree trunks rollers arranged in several layers. At regular intervals terraced towers were built and this thing allowed the guards made ​​ optical signals which offered them a great communication that stretched for miles. A wall is interrupted at some points so they can have defense points , to which the soldiers could retreat if necessary. Each tower has unique and difficult stairs to access in order to confuse the enemy.

The barracks and administrative centers were located at greater distances . In addition to its defensive function , the Great Wall played an instrumental role as a mean of communication and commerce opening the doors of China to the Western world .The famous " Silk Road " passed trough China, and merchants from the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean who traveled to the east could not reach their destinations without going through the wall .

The materials used are those available around the building . Near Beijing was used limestone and was also used granite or fired brick .That made the wall very resistant to impacts of siege weapons.



The Great Wall is not only a wall, but a defence system that integrated various walls, watchtowers and towers of fire for reporting under the control of military levels defined. For example, under the Ming, there were nine sections of different military responsibilities that are described as ,,Nine vital defences in the borders’’. It was assigned a commander, reporting directly to the National Ministry of Defence. About one million troops were deployed along the Great Wall to preserve the nation. During 2,000 years of construction of the wall, the Chinese people learned a lot about defences (harmonization with the topography and location of military forces, building materials, etc.) The format of the walls varied depending on the topography and defence requirements. In the strategic passages, the walls were very high and solid, although they were low and narrow in high and steep mountains to reduce the costs in money and labor. In some places like Juyongguan or the Badaling section, general rule, the walls have seven to eight meters in height, four to five meters thick at the top and six to seven metres down. Inside the upper part, there is a parapet of a metre barrier which prevented the soldiers fall, niches two metres high, as well as holes for pull or throw rocks. In the strategic sections, the upper part is blocked by a series of transverse walls to prevent the enemy to climb. During the dynasty of the Ming ,General Qi Jiguang, famous for defeating Japanese pirates, improved the defense of the wall system, by adding towers, watchtower and the warehouses for weapons and munition. Passes are defensive strategic points throughout the wall.Fire reporting towers constituted one of the essential components of the defense system and an effective means of transmitting military information. During the Ming, sounds of explosion were added to enhance the effect. As a defence system, the Great Wall crosses mountains, deserts and prairies, cliffs and rivers and harmonizes its structure to the complexity of the topography. It is a marvel of ancient architecture.

The wall remained standing , indeed, for a long time . Under the great Han dynasty became a great place for the battles against the Huns , China using rockets multitudinous armies. During the next dynasty , the Chinese generals seized the huge wall as a base from which to progress in Hun Mongol heartland in Central Asia. That was the great migration of Germanic peoples . The construction whose existence had produced such effects spread over continents, only partially protected China, and from its decline in the thirteenth century was less protected.

When in 1368 succumbed the Mongol dynasty in China under pressure from the Chinese militia and riders steppe retreated to Central Asia, one of the first tasks the new Ming dynasty ( 1348-1644 ) aimed purely Chinese , was the reconstruction of the imposing wall .