Ancient China’s Work of Genius
Long a symbol of the country’s strength, the Great Wall of China – Wan Li Chang Cheng, or the Long Wall of Ten Thousand Li – has captured the imagination of people worldwide throughout its history. Said to be the only manmade structure visible from the moon, it was built piecemeal over a period of 2,000 years as a defense against marauding nomadic tribes from the north.
Some sections may have been constructed as early as the 8th century B.C., but it was not until the unification of the empire in 221 B.C. that the various sections of the wall were linked up to span some 3,750 miles. Over a million workers – peasants, soldiers, and prisoners – were involved in the construction, building it wide enough to allow ten soldiers or five horses to travel abreast between the 10,000 battlements and watchtowers.
The wall was primarily built to keep foreigners out, but today it’s a primary draw that lures them in. Only one third of the original wall remains, and on the average day its restored viewing points are barely able to accommodate the hordes of tourists and the carnival of kitsch souvenir vendors and T-shirt stands.
Despite the zoolike atmosphere, a glimpse of the wall, serpentining its way across the serene mountains and valleys like an imperial ridge-backed dragon, is the only real way to understand what a colossal human feat it represents.