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How long is the Great Wall? Sure you’ve seen photos…but the only way to really appreciate the Great Wall of China is to stand on its walls and stare in awe as it snakes across the Gobi Desert and China’s placid mountains like a majestic ridge- backed dragon. Built by a succession of imperial dynasties over the last two millennia, the network of fortifications and towers has evolved over the centuries—defining and defending the outer reaches of Chinese civilization. During his famous visit to the Great Wall in 1. Richard Nixon (in a Bush Jr–esque moment of eloquence) stated: “I think that you would have to conclude that this is a great wall.” And he was right—the Great Wall of China is undoubtedly one of the ancient world’s most amazing feats of engineering. To the Chinese, the Great Wall is known as “Wan Li Chang Cheng” (万里长城 ), or literally, “Long Wall of Ten Thousand Li” (“li” being a measure of distance about 5. But of course, that’s not the actual length of the wall, but just an ancient way of “a long friggin’ wall.”And although the Great Wall is undisputedly the longest man- made structure ever built, its exact total length continues to be debated since it’s not a single, continuous barrier as described by early Western historical accounts.
Instead, it’s more accurately described as a patchwork of walls that evolved over the centuries—an overlapping maze of walls and towers that were built (or fell into disuse) by successive dynasties throughout Chinese history. But one thing is clear: the Great Wall is one of – if not THE – iconic symbol of China, symbolizing the perseverance and diligence of the Chinese civilization. There simply aren’t many cultural landmarks on the earth that symbolize the sweep of a nation’s history more powerfully than the Wall. On the other hand, a number of Chinese intellectuals have pointed to the Wall as a symbol of what’s wrong with China – that it’s too conservative, focused on past glory days, and tends to look inward rather than outward. Similarly, others see it as symbolic of the long- time Chinese practice of trying to keep out foreign cultures and influence, rather than absorbing and learning from them.
HOW OLD IS THE GREAT WALL? Building large- scale defensive walls has a long history in China. Walls often surrounded an entire city to protect against marauding nomads and enemies. One of the earliest dates way back to the Shang Dynasty (1. BC), which built a tall earthen- wall that enclosed an area of three square kilometers around their capital. Surviving Xi'an city walls (1.
To see some great examples of China more “modern” (but still ancient) surviving city walls, head to Nanjing or Xi’an. The earliest pieces of the Great Wall were built as early as the 5th century BC, during the so- called Warring States Period, when rival states constructed fortifications to defend their borders and irrigated lands against their neighbors (as well as non- Chinese nomads from the north). During this early evolution, the “Wall” was just a growing patchwork of walls used to separate rival territories. The Great Wall as a concept didn’t come into existence until the 3rd century BC, after the legendary Qin Shi Huang unified China in 2. BC—becoming the founder of the Empire and First Emperor of China.
In 2. 15 BC, he started the gargantuan task of creating the Great Wall 1. China from the horse- riding nomadic “barbarians” to the north. Of course, he personally didn’t lift a finger. But he had between 3. Though his dynasty was one of China’s shortest, his mark of Chinese history is indelible. The infamously ruthless and iron- fisted First Emperor also left China with its second most famous tourist attraction: the Terracotta Army—his massive subterranean tomb filled with over 7,0. All Inclusive Hotels Benidorm Adults Only.
In fact, his Great Wall project–along with other major development projects requiring massive labor–caused so much widespread suffering throughout the country that there were several (unsuccessful) assassination attempts on his life. GREAT WALL 2. 0: THE MING DYNASTY UPGRADEFast forward to the 1. The most impressive “modern” sections of the Great Wall were all constructed during the Ming Dynasty (1. CE). The insular Ming emperors didn’t just fortify parts of the wall…we’re talking about over a 1. With many tourist- friendly sections located near Beijing, these Ming Walls are the impressive, sturdy brick structures that we see in photos today. They stand at almost 2.
Strategically spaced about 3. Beijing on enemy movements (you’d think a Twitter feed would be quicker).
A LONG AND EXPENSIVE FAILURE? But despite decades of construction and countless lives lost (it’s also referred to as the world’s largest tombstone), the Great Wall never really effectively served its function as a supposedly impregnable line of defense. Historians consider it a “failure” as a defensive system not because of any inherent design flaws.