Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Great Wall of China

Have you ever heard that you could see the Great Wall from space? Well while it is an amazing structure, it is still the size of a wall, and is not visible with the naked eye. Its length, however, is quite amazing, as it stretches with actual wall, trenches, and natural defenses for an estimated 5,500 miles! The length of the actual wall is an estimated 3890 miles. The Great Wall is close to double the length traveling from one side of the United States to the other. When I google mapped directions from Wildwood, NJ to San Francisco, CA, it was about 3,000 miles. One common misconception is that the Great Wall is continuously. It is rather a series of short walls that follow the crest of the hill near the Mongolian plain. 

Why was the Great Wall Built?

The Great Wall was built was to help ward off invaders from the North. Walls were built beginning in the 5th century and was rebuilt and maintained up through the 16th century.  Most of the walls we have left were built during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644)

The map above shows when the different parts of the wall were built and during which dynasty. While the map above is a bit small and hard to see this shows it in a bit more detail. While the wall was built to ward off the Mongolian defenders, because it was not continuous, the Mongolians just went around the walls instead...which led to the abandonment of the building of the walls. The first walls were pretty simple, mad with earth and stones on wooden frames. 

Early parts of the Great Wall in China

The Ming Dynasty walls were much more complex, and could be up to 25 feet high, 15-30 feet wide at the base, and 9-12 feet tall at the top, with  guard and watch towers at regular intervals. The walls were made wide enough for marching troops and wagons. 

Great Wall built during the Ming Dynasty
The Great Wall Today

Because of the age of the Great Wall, there has been restoration efforts to maintain the wall. Every day the Wall can boast thousands of visitors! In parts of the wall (Badaling Section and the Ming Mausoleums Scenic Area), there is a limit to 53,000 visitors per day...which means that an estimated 2 million people visit that part of the wall each year. The wall is also proned to graffiti and certain sections of the wall are eroding.

Graffiti on the Great Wall

As an integral part of China and its culture, I hope that the wall will be around for hundreds more years for people to visit!

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