Fun fact #1: Did you know it has a whopping history of more than 2300 years?
Fun fact #2: Did you know that the Great Wall of China spans across parts of China at about 21196.18 kilometres long?
Hence, in Chinese, this Wall is named as Wanli Changcheng - a literal meaning of “Ten-Thousand-Mile Long Wall” (1 mile=500 metres).
The Wall that exists today measures about 5500 miles (8850 km). Before you think "Hey, it’s not that long after all!", let it be known that this length is solely the length of the walls itself. If you take into consideration of the rivers and hills in between, the full length of the continuous route is over 13,000 miles in fact! The west end of The Wall lies in the city of Jiayuguan, and it runs all the way to the Yellow Sea on the Eastern Coast.
It is common to hear "Emperor Qin built the Great Wall of China!!!"
Sorry to say…
Neither was Emperor Qin the first to build the Great Wall. The complicated history of the Great Wall involved much more people who contributed to the construction. Let’s take a peek into the history...
Before the merging of tiny states in China, state wars occurred frequently as people fought to expand their territories. To prevent invasion by other states, building of high walls was a strategy employed. This all started with Qi Huangong (also known as the Duke Huan of Qi), who became a Qi overlord and reigned his state from 685 to 643 BCE. During this period, he initiated the movement to build walls to prevent incursions by the Chu State, which was located at south of Qi. Qi State was hence the first state to build such walls in 656 BCE.
This strategy became widespread as princes and overlords from other states began to build walls on their borders too. In addition, high mountain watchtowers are built along with the walls to defend against invasion of the northern nomads, such as the Mongol, Turic and Xiongnu. This construction process happened mostly during the Warring States Period (475–221 BCE).
In 221 BC, China's first emperor, Qin Shihuang, took over the other six out of seven states in China. The Qin Dynasty (221-207 BCE) marked a history-making moment as the first unified kingdom in Chinese history was formed. In order to strengthen his newly born authority and to secure China’s northern border, he ordered his general Meng Tian to link the walls of three northern states (Qin, Zhao, and Yan). This formed the Northern Frontier wall, which was also first "5,000-Kilometer Great Wall”.
Throughout the building process, Emperor Qin employed ordinary people of China and made their labour a form of tax payment to the state. He made use of The Wall to conjure a sense of obligation to the state and unity, among the citizens. However, the construction process was not easy and more than tens of thousands of people, particularly young men, died while working.
The high death rate attributed to the citizens’ dislike towards the Qin Dynasty. Hence, it was soon taken over by the Han Dynasty (207 BCE-200 CE). The Han wanted to be seen as benevolent and thus, no longer overwork its people.
When Han Gaozu succeeded the throne in 202 BCE, he emphasized on the strengthening of the Great Wall, as northern nations continued to be China's biggest threat.
A later emperor, Han Wudi, who ruled the Han dynasty from 141 to 87 BCE, opened the Silk Road for trade transactions from the East to the West. The Eastward traders and Westward traders carried different goods over for mutual exchange.
After a peaceful term, the reigning Han dynasty attacked the northern nomads. They colonised new territories, repaired and extended about 10,000 kilometres of walls. This created a record extension of the Wall to the far west, through the Gobi Desert.
The western part of the Great Wall was significantly extended to Yumen Pass and the Dunhuang Great Wall to protect the Silk Road traders from roving bandits. Interestingly, the section of the Wall constructed in the Han-era —stretching from Liaodong in the east to Xinjiang to the west, was the longest built by any dynasty.
Years on, the Great Wall was repaired, modified and extended throughout the Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan and most notably, the Ming dynasty. Most of today's Great Wall was built or restored in the Ming Dynasty, as the repair works amount up to more than twenty occasions. Today, the most popular sections are at Badaling, Mutianyu, Simatai and Jinshanling, which were all built in the Ming Dynasty.
If you made it to the end of this post, congratulations! You made it to the end of the Great Wall of China! (not literally, of course) Do share with us your thoughts about this wonderful (cause it is one of the world’s 7 wonders geddit geddit?) historical place, we would love to hear them! If you do not think it is thaaaat great (pun not intended), well then…
Picture Credit: http://madsvk.tumblr.com/post/88019519463