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The Great Wall of China should rightly be considered a Wonder of the World for its sheer length and the time and labor spent to enact a protective barrier for the ancient Chinese. For many years it was considered the only man-made structure visible from the moon, but this is now found to be a myth, as astronauts including the first Chinese astronaut, Yang Liwei, reported that it could not be seen from space. Though considered the work of the Qin Shihuangdi\u79e6\u59cb\u7687\u5e1d, the first Emperor of China, it was already started some three hundred years earlier in shorter segments. It is said that the word \u201cChina\u201d came from Qin\u79e6 , also spelt \u201cChin\u201d, the kingdom of Qin Shihuangdi.
The First Emperor, on unifying China in 221 BC, destroyed the walls that divided the previous seven contending kingdoms of the Warring States Period, and joined up the various northern walls of the previous states of Qin, Zhao and Yan into what is called the Great Wall of China. Succeeding dynasties repaired and re-construct sections of the wall, the last and most durable being the wall
For foreign visitors, it is said that if one has not climbed the Great Wall, one has not been to China. For the Chinese, it is said that a true Chinese is one who has seen the Great Wall. The Great Wall is also a monument of mankind to be shared with the world. Stretching in the West at Jiayuguan\u5609 \u5cea \u95dc in Gansu Province on the Silk Road, the Great Wall winds its way eastwards till it reaches the Yalu River in north-east Manchurian China, a distance of some 6000 kms. Another eastern branch of the Great Wall terminates at Laolongtou\u8001\u9f8d\u982d (Old Dragon's Head) at the sea coast 5 km beyond Shanhaiguan\u5c71\u6d77\u95dc (Mountain-Sea Pass).
To the ancient Chinese, westward from the Jiayuguan, the western gate of the Great Wall, was considered the end of civilization; the pass also called the Last Gate under Heaven. To the north of the Great Wall would be nomadic tribes who were raiders and considered uncivilized. Hence, the Chinese psyche placed the wall as the dividing line between the comfort zone of the civilized empire and the uncivilized unknown of the wild inhospitable nomadic steppes. It is immortalized in poems and in paintings through the ages. There are also photographic enthusiasts who want to portray the beauty of parts of the Great Wall throughout the seasons.
Sima Qian wrote in the Records of the Historian\u53f2\u8a18 (Shiji), that under the order of Qin Shihuangdi, \u201cGeneral Meng Tian\u8499\u606c mobilized 300,000 soldiers\u2026 and built a Great Wall which followed the contour of the land, taking advantage of natural defenses.\u201d Apparently, an additional 500,000 conscript laborers were recruited as well. The wall was improved upon by the succeeding Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), which built a separate 10,000 km wall, longer and to the north of the Qin wall. Unfortunately, the Han wall later fell into neglect and ruin.
During the Northern Qi\u5317\u9f4a (550-577), over one and a half million men were mobilized to build the sector from JuyongGuan to Datong in the west. The Sui Dynasty also called up a million conscripts for Great Wall repair and construction. Even widows were not spared when their menfolk died. However, the Great Wall was neglected by the Tang Dynasty, confident of repelling its northern neighbors without its use, while the Song Dynasty lost the northern part of China to the Liao\u907cKingdom or Khitans\u5951\u4e39 (916-1125) and the Jin\u91d1Kingdom or Jurchens/Nuzhen\u5973\u771f (1115-1234). Apparently the word for China, \u201cCathay\u201d, came from Khitan.
The next phase of the re-construction of the Great Wall came with the fall of the Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty in 1368, when Ming Dynasty founder, Zhu Yuanzhang\u6731\u5143 \u748b (1328-1398), entrusted the work to his general, Xu Da\u5f90 \u8fbe . This earlier Ming re- construction was followed up in 1568 by the Ming Generals, Tan Lun\u8b5a\u7db8 (1520-1577) and Qi Jiguang\u621a\u7ee7\u5149 (1528-1587), and most of the well preserved parts of the Great Wall at Beijing are due to these two men.
The famous Shanhaiguan we see today at the Bohai on the eastern end, was built during the Ming Dynasty, and is not the original Qin/Han Dynasty wall. There was an old fortress at Shanhaiguan during the Northern Qi period, but it had been destroyed. The present Shanghaiguan was the pass that the Ming Dynasty general, Wu Sangui\u5433 \u4e09\u6842 , in 1644 allowed the Manchu army under General Doergun\u591a \u723e \u889eto pass through to counter the rebel army of Li Zicheng\u674e\u81ea \u6210. With the defeat of the rebels and the Ming remnants, the Manchus decided to stay for good and ruled China as the Qing\u6e05 (not Qin\u79e6) Dynasty from 1644 till 1911.
On the Great Wall one can look to the northern rough terrain of the ancient invaders, and to the east and west the wall winding its way from peak to peak. The difficulty of constructing the wall was compounded by locating it at the steepest of terrains to offer a commanding strategic advantage, the beacon towers being built atop the peaks.
The materials used differed according to the location and the terrain. Unlike the Qin and Han walls in which sand, earth, clay, reed, wood, tiles and stones were used, the Ming artisans fifteen centuries later were using lime, bricks and stone slabs. In certain sections of the wall, to ensure a good standard of the bricks, each manufacturer had to emboss his bricks with his name and date of manufacture. Stone slabs had to be cut and transported from the quarries, and the bigger 3 meter long stone slabs seen at Badaling and JuyongGuan weighed 1000 kg and took much effort to be transported to site.
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