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Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China (長城 in pinyin: Cháng Chéng, literal meaning: "Long City (Fortress)") is an ancient Chinese fortification, built to protect the Empire of China since the 3rd century BC against the raids of 'barbarians' from Mongolia and Manchuria. The main purpose of the Wall was not to prevent people from crossing but rather to prevent them from bringing their horses.

History

The Wall was built during the reign of The First Emperor, the main leader of the short-lived Qin dynasty. However, on the one hand the Wall was not built out of the blue, but created by the joining of several local walls built by the Warring States, on the other hand it has been renovated and extended by several later dynasties, getting most of its current shape during the Ming Dynasty. The Wall stretches over a formidable 6,400 km, from the boundary with Korea on the Yalu River (Yalu Jiang) to the Gobi desert.

There have been four major discrete constructions and renovations:

  1. 208 BC (the Qing Dynasty)
  2. 1st century BC (the Han Dynasty)
  3. 1138 - 1198 (the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period)
  4. 1368 (the Ming Dynasty)

The Ming Dynasty Great Wall starts on the eastern end at Shanhai Pass (山海关 shan1 hai3 guan1), Qinghuangdao, in Hebei Province next to Bohai Gulf. Spanning nine provinces and 100 counties, it ends on the western end at Jiayu Pass (嘉峪关 jia1 yu4 guan1) located in northwest Gansu Province. Jiayu Pass was intended to greet traveler along the Silk Road. Even though Great Wall ends at Jiayu Pass, there are watchtowers (烽火台 feng1 huo3 tai2) extending beyond Jiayu Pass along the Silk Road. These towers communicated by smoke to signal invasion.

The Manchus crossed the Wall by convincing a crucial general Wu Sangui[?] to open the gates of Shahai Pass and allow the Manchus to cross. After they conquered China, the Wall was of no strategic value as the people who the Wall was intended to keep out were ruling the country.

Structure

Significant passes (關口) include:

  • Shanhai Pass (山海關)
  • Jiuyong Pass (居庸關)
  • Niangzi Pass (娘子關)

The Wall is in disrepair, serving as a playground for some villages and a source of stones to rebuild houses and roads. Sections of the Wall are also prone to graffiti. Parts have been bulldozed because the Wall is in the way of construction projects. The China Great Wall Society[?] works to preserve the Wall. Through June, 2003, the Chinese government still had no laws written to protect the Wall.

Recognition

The Wall is sometimes considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but it was actually unknown in ancient Greece when the "wonders of the world" were listed.

The Wall was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.



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