The Great Wall of China is the collective name of a series of fortification systems generally built across the historical northern borders of China to protect and consolidate territories of Chinese states and empires against various nomadic groups of the steppe and their polities. Wikipedia
The Great Wall of China is one of the greatest sights in the world — the longest wall in the world, an awe-inspiring feat of ancient defensive architecture. Its winding path over rugged country and steep mountains takes in some great scenery.
History: more than 2,300 years
Get a thorough intro to the Great Wall of China: interesting facts, who built it, and why, and how, locations, maps, length, height, Beijing tours … at this website.
The majestic Great Wall was built with wisdom, dedication, blood, sweat, and tears. Families were separated, and many workers died and were interred as part of the Great Wall itself.
- Workers: soldiers, peasants, rebels
- Materials: stone, soil, sand, brick
- Material delivery: by hand, rope, cart, goat
Read more on How the Great Wall Was Built — Materials and Methods: See who the workers were, their construction techniques, and how they moved the huge amount of materials.
The Great Wall starts at Shanhaiguan Pass, a seaport along the coast of Bohai Bay, and travels on to Jiayuguan Pass in Gansu Province. At its highest point at Badaling it stands 2,624 feet above sea level. In most places, the wall is 25 feet high and ranges from 15 to 30 feet in width. The highest point of the Great Wall is in Beijing at Heita Mountain at 5,033 feet. The lowest point is at Laolongtou at sea level. The Great Wall’s western section and its chain of watchtowers provided defense for those traveling the Silk Road.
Present Condition — 30%+ of the Great Wall Is Gone
30%+ of the Great Wall is gone.
Due to natural erosion and human damage, about 2,000 kilometers, or 30% of the Ming Great Wall has disappeared. (Far more of previous dynasties’ Great Wall sections is gone.)
Restoration and Protection to the Great Wall
To prevent further loss of the Great Wall, the Chinese Government has taken measures to protect it:
- Laws to protect the Great Wall
- Funds for protection, restoration, and maintenance
As individuals, we can do the follows to protect the Great Wall:
- Plant trees to keep the Great Wall slopes protected from erosion
- Don’t litter and graffiti / remove trash and graffiti
- Don’t damage the Great Wall / take bricks home (it’s illegal)
Read more about Great wall Protection.
Watchtowers up to 40 feet in height were built at regular intervals. These lookout towers and fortresses housed troops and supplies. Defenders used beacons, smoke or flags to communicate. Workers often depicted Uranus, or Tianwang, the personification of Heaven, in reliefs found at strategic points on the Great Wall.
We went up about a kilometre up the wall near Beijing to the Badaling section of the wall. Located 70km northwest of Beijing and only a 1.5hr drive from the capital, Badaling is one of the most popular and heavily visited sections of the wall. As the first section of the Wall to be fully reconstructed, it’s been open to the public the longest and very little of it is original.
Featuring 16 restored watchtowers and set amongst undulating mountains, it’s still very photogenic and provides visitors with the classic Great Wall image. At the foot of the Badaling section of the Wall there are a number of restaurants and souvenir stalls, as well as the Great Wall Museum, which provides a comprehensive history of the Wall (closed Monday). It’s worth checking out the museum on your way down.
The Carpark Area …. in front of the cars is the formal garden. See photos of the garden at the end of this post. The garden is really visible looking down from the Wall.
The first watchtower in this section of Wall near the entry is visible through the trees from the carpark. See the photo below for the entry to the Wall.
The height of each tower was about 3 to 5 meters and its width was about 5 to 10 meters.
Initial entry from the carpark area into the kilometre long section of the Wall to one of the first watchtowers in this section of Wall. See people going up this section of Wall to the left of the photo and also in the photo below.
People going up the many steps for about a kilometre long to one of the second watchtowers in this section of Wall.
Looking down on the carpark area beside the souvenir shops.
Detail of people along this section of Wall to one of the first watchtowers then to the top hillside watchtower.
The most vulnerable section seems to be the gates of the Great wall. It is a necessary facility to trade in and out of China. Those gates are mostly large, with a trap between an inner and outer gate or leading into a labyrinth or small fortress.
There are watchtowers dotted every so many miles along the Great Wall, numbering 25,000 in all. Those watchtowers served 2 purposes:
First, sentries could stand on the tower to keep watch for any impending invasion approaching the wall. The towers were built on hilltops which could maximize the sight range for sentries.
Second, when an attack closed, sentries in the watchtower could light a signal fire, then sentries in other tower could see and send signal by waving flags, rising smoke in the day, lanterns or light in the night. This signal would pass from on watch tower to another until the troops was alerted and ready to fight against the invaders. See the section on this website: Signal Alarm by Making Smoke
There were also soldiers patrolling on the top of the wall from tower to tower. Thus, the Great Wall of China was defended by sentries, a system of signal flags, fires, and lights, and an army who were quick on their feet.
If enemies were very determined, the earlier built Great wall could be broken through the gates. In Ming Dynasty the gates had been enhanced and strong enough to prevent any invasions and it could just be opened from within. Sometimes the Great Wall could not prevent enemy from entering China, but it did at least slow down the attack of the invaders and prevent them bring horses in and goods out.
Looking down on all the buildings associated with this initial entry to the wall. The souvenir shops are a very small section of these buildings.
Apart from defense, other purposes of the Great Wall have included border controls, allowing the imposition of duties on goods transported along the Silk Road, regulation or encouragement of trade and the control of immigration and emigration. Furthermore, the defensive characteristics of the Great Wall were enhanced by the construction of watch towers, troop barracks, garrison stations, signaling capabilities through the means of smoke or fire, and the fact that the path of the Great Wall also served as a transportation corridor.
Looking down on the town of Badaling. There are many buildings. Our two buses we travelled from Beijing can just be seen in the carpark on the topside of the town.
Ken and Harriet Aitken in the window of the top hillside watchtower.
Looking down on people coming up steps for about a kilometre long to the second watchtower in this section of Wall. This is where we had come from.
It is really amazing that this wall and all the buildings below were built by hand, more than 2,300 years ago. Every stone was cut by hand, placed by hand and transported by animal power ….. there was no machinery available then. As was said above: The majestic Great Wall was built with wisdom, dedication, blood, sweat, and tears. Families were separated, and many workers died and were interred as part of the Great Wall itself.
Ken and Harriet Aitken again looking through a gap in the Wall as the Wall snakes ahead of us over the mountains.
When we visited the Great Wall, I found out that the wall had a certain degree of cheesiness. Along the slabs of stone and metal railings, couples from all over the world have found a way to leave a token of love in the historic wall: love locks.
You might have heard/seen love locks before. They are present in many different countries– especially those with high affluence of tourists. The tradition of lovers putting love locks began in the famous Parisian bridge, Le Pont des Arts. Couples would go to Le Pont Des Arts, engrave a lock with their names/initials, lock it, and throw the key to the river. This act symbolized a lock that would never be open, and thus, a love that would never falter.
Ancient Chinese spears and a sculpture of a terracotta soldier on the Great Wall.
Ken and Harriet Aitken again looking over the Wall ….. at something …… there was such a sense of mystic and history in the whole walk.
We are coming down the wall and approaching Badaling town. Individual buildings are becoming apparent.
The formal garden behind the carpark becomes apparent. You can easily see it looking down from the wall. See the next photos as well.
A souvenir shop selling souvenirs, antiques, jade and crafts.
A shop selling a multitude of items.
If you like to find more about the Great Wall see these websites:
The Great Wall of China — All You Want to Know ______________________________________________________________________________