Historical Places

The Great Wall of China

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Great Wall of China is famous around the world as a historical fortification of breathtaking magnitude.

History of the Great Wall

The building of the Great Wall spanned over 2000 years, from the 5th century BC to the 16th century. Each successive dynasty would adapt the fortifications and even the location of the wall to defend the Chinese Empire from invasions and attacks from the north.

The Great Wall is overwhelming in scale, with the existing portions stretching 5,500 miles from Shanhaiguan Pass in the east to Jiayuguan Pass in the west and crossing the provinces of Liaoning, Hebei, Beijing, Tianjin, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Shaanxi and Gansu.

To reduce the difficulty of transporting materials, the early wall builders used local materials whenever possible: rammed earth on the plains and stones in the mountains. Historians estimate that between 2 and 3 million workers died during its construction.

Sections were added during the Qin, Han, Sui, Northern and Jin Dynasties, but many parts of the Great Wall that we admire today were constructed during the Ming Dynasty. The Ming fortifications were built of brick and stone, with the sections near the Ming capital of Beijing being particularly strong. At its peak, the wall was guarded by over a million men. During the Qing Dynasty, China annexed Mongolia, extended its borders north and the wall was no longer needed. Construction and repairs on the wall ceased.

Visiting the Great Wall today

(Beautiful landscape of Great Wall of China near Beijing) Beautiful landscape of Great Wall of China
near Beijing.

The Great Wall of China is a pre-eminent tourist destination and there are many tours offered to the different sections. Within the municipality of Beijing are some stunning renovated sections of the Great Wall which can be easily accessed by tourists. Further afield, there are tours to other dramatic sections of the Great Wall. Some of the highlights of the Great Wall in the Beijing region are: Badaling, JuyongGuan and HuanghuaCheng in the north-west, Jiankou and Mutianyu in the north, and Jinshanling, Gubeikou and Simatai in the north-east. Badaling, 43 miles from Beijing, is a 3 mile section of 19 watchtowers traversing eight peaks, and is considered the best preserved example of Ming Dynasty wall construction. It is the most accessible section of the wall for those with walking difficulties. Mutianyu is a stretch of wall with 22 beacon towers. There is a cable car which takes you to the top to enjoy the magnificent views. Simatai is 87 miles from Beijing and is a section of the wall with 35 beacon towers. Restored in some parts, it is crumbling in others, and is a good place to see the wall without so many crowds. From the tower of Wangjinglou you can view Beijing in the distance.

The marvel of engineering and human persistence that is the Great Wall of China will not fail to awe and impress.