The great wall of China
Updated: Mar 13
THE STONE DRAGON WEAVES 6500KM ACROSS MOUNTAINTOPS AND PLUNGES DEEP INTO CANYONS. BUT ITS MAGNIFICENCE HIDES ITS TUMULTUOUS HISTORY…
out step off the bus into a carnival of souvenir stalls in full swing. Hawkers call from their perches, intent on a sell. In the distance you spy the wall, already crawling with troops of tourists surging
over the ramparts. You should have heeded the advice to visit a quieter spot, a slightly longer drive away. Still, you’re here now, and climbing the wall looks like an exciting challenge.At points, it really is a climb. Hundreds of steps rise up in front of you. Head down, you puff your way up the steep incline. The view at the top is well worth it. The grey-bricked wall snakes its way across the rugged hills into the hazy distance. You hike on, passing battlement after battlement, as the crowds thin out. Gradually, the wall loses its priestliness, the restorations giving way to rubble. Yet still the wall snakes on. Surely, this 6500km-long wall is one of the greatest achievements of the Red Dragon
Three sides of China are protected by natural barriers – the Himalaya lie to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Tibetan Plateau to the west. But the northern border lies open, and once beckoned advancing armies. To maintain his grip over his newly amalgamated lands, the first emperor of unified China, Qin Shi Huang (from the 3rd-century Qin Dynasty), hatched a plan. To keep the so called‘barbarians’ at bay, he coerced hundreds of thousands of workers into hefting an estimated 180 million cubic metres of rocks and mud in order to construct the original earthen wall. In the mid-14th century, the Ming Dynasty came to power. Throughout the following years, Manchurian and Mongolian tribes nipped at the heels of their borderlands, leaving festering wounds in the Ming defences. The Ming emperors were a powerful and proud bunch and none more so than Emperor Jiajing, who took the throne in 1522. When a Mongol delegation ventured south to try to open trade talks, they were met with contempt at the Forbidden City, in the capital then known as Beiping. The ‘barbarians’ were dismissed – and a price was put on the Mongol prince’s head.With the harsh winters continuing to take their toll and no trading options, over the years the Mongols began to harass the borderland peasants more and more. This was the final straw for the emperor. Something had to be done.