Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of ChinaGreat Wall of China

“You are not a real man; if you haven’t climbed the Great Wall” Mao Zedong.

Numerous walls.

The story of ‘The Great Walls’ of China is a two thousand year old saga spanning from 5th century BC to 16th century. In this long period of history that exceeded two whole millennia numerous walls were built maintained and rebuilt making China a country of the wall. Qin Shi Huang the 5th century emperor had built the largest structure on earth –a wall far longer and farther north than the present one, but as it was built of mud it perished in the centuries that has passed yet keep its position in history intact.

A technological break-through.

The present structure which was built in bricks and stones by the Ming Dynasty in the 16th century is 6,400 kilometers long with intermittent towers and barracks was the only one that could endure the test of time as it was built on bricks and stones (the former ones were made of rammed earth and mud). The role played by this giant wall in defending China from enemies of tribal origin like Huns, Mongols, Turks and numerous tribes which resided around the empire was enormous.

From Shanghai Pass to Lop Nor.

The Great Wall of ChinaGreat Wall of China image courtsey:

The great barrier starts from Shanghai Pass (it is the national culture site at the eastern end of the wall) in the East and Lop Nor (Lop Nor is the name of a group of seasonal salt lakes and marshes between two deserts, these are the vestiges of the dried up Tarim Lake in to which formed of the water from Tarim River) in the west on the way it traverses deserts, swamps, mountains and all other natural obstructions.

Defense is the best form of offence!

The idea of this great wall arose when Ming Emperor was defeated by the Mongols in the war of Tumu in 1449. By that time construction methods improved and instead of rammed earth used by previous emperors Ming used bricks and stone. Enemies of all sorts were kept at bay and Ming was able to rule his land in peace for a considerable period of time! The size of the wall varies from region to region, on an average it is 8 meters high, thickness at the base is which tapers at the top to about 5 meters. The top is provided with shelters to guards and defensive gaps.

Could not break; but got in!

Then came the Manchu tribes under the leader Yuan Changhuan, even the great wall was not enough to resist this smart king who bribed the border general (Wu Sangui) of the Ming Dynasty and secured entrance through the main gate itself. The invader became the king and he established the ‘Qing Dynasty’. The

Qing emperors were smarter and they did not think that a wall only as a hindrance to their expansionist policies (by the time they annexed Mongolia to China) and they neglected it.

Wonder of the world.

This great structure has been granted the World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1987 and it remains as a hot destination for tourists’ world wide (since opening up of the economy China has started to emerge as a tourist destination) and this great wall remains as one of the most photographed structures in the world. In the recently announced list of the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ the Great Wall of China secured its position by securing a hundred million votes.

Locations of interest.

The Great Wall of ChinaInside of the Great Wall of China

In remote areas the wall is not adequately preserved and villagers take away the stones for building houses but there are many parts of the wall with much significance; like The North Pass, Jinshanling and Shanhaiguan etc. The North Pass known as the Badaling is well preserved and it was doing important location of defending the capital. In south east part of the Jinshanling area there is a remarkable point (mutianyu great wall) which climbs over a mountain at about 980 Meters above sea-level. Shanhaiguan portion of the wall is known as museum as there are ancient temples like Jiang-Nu built by the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD).

Visibility imbroglio!

The Great Wall of ChinaGreat Wall of China Map image courtsey:

It has been claimed that The Great Wall of China can be seen with naked eye from the space and even from the moon but none other than Neil Armstrong (one of the two men who stepped on the moon) has stated that he could not see anything made by man including the ‘Great Wall’ standing there on the moon. Visibility from space is also a disputed case, there are people who have seen it and there are space-guys who could not see it. Every one agrees that the great wall was less visible than many other structures as it posses the color of the back-ground and not broad enough to be visible from distance.

Lenoy Chiao a space guy actually took a photograph while in International Space Station to claim it to be of the great wall, but was not sure whether it is of the great canal near Beijing!

The pride of China.

China has many number one positions to be proud of; like the nation with largest population (1.3 billion and still counting) Chinese being spoken by largest number of people, the largest growing economy (soon to be the #2 in GDP), largest producer of goods (known as the factory of the world) and along with all these credits there stands the Great Wall as the number one among all credits due to China.

Can be seen from earth itself!

There is no reason to regret even if the structure cannot be seen from moon. Can it can be seen from moon or space is not the question whether it is the largest human made structure is the issue and there is no dispute regarding that. This wall has one more advantage it can be seen standing from earth itself and need not bother to go to the moon just to see the Great Wall!

A legendary curse!

As a massive structure spanning thousands of kilometers through the rural and urban areas of a vast country; the wall has gained in the folklores and mythologies of the country. One of the most interesting and popular one about Meng Jiagnu is as follows. Meng and her husband lived in a nearby village and when the construction of the wall began her husband went to work for it against her wish as she had some feeling some impending danger. As she feared her husband died as a stone fell upon him. Meng was in deep grief and she cursed the wall and all who were behind it. As she just cursed a portion of the nearby wall collapsed. This story is quoted for the power of a faithful wife’s curse.

It all started from a single brick.

“A thousand mile journey starts from a single step”. Mao Zedong, former chairman of the Peoples’ Republic of China. Construction of a wall -that is largest manmade structure in the world- begins by placing a single brick.

1 comment:

Bla said...

The Great Wall Of China - now this is a place I'd like to visit!