Going to the Great Wall of China was definitely on my Bucket List. Yet I was hesitant to go. I feared that it would be 1) overrun with weeds and all crumbly; 2) overcrowded; 3) overtaken by junky vendor stands; 4) cluttered with debri and garbage; 5) polluted in the air.
But we went and it was NONE of these things. It was ancient yet intact, and where it was crumbly, it was still walkable. We were advised to go to a remote place where “few people would be”, but in China, how is few possible? Surely, everyone else would have heard of this remote area and there would be a mob of people. However, unbelievably, there were moments that we seemed to be the only people on the wall. (One online site said there were 41 million foreigners who visited the wall in 2004. Another said there are 9 million a year.)
And it wasn’t tainted with commercialism. It was also clean. Lastly…. the surrounding mountains, hills and greenery — oh, yes, along with a blue pollution free sky — made it breathtaking and truly a moving experience.
Here’s some interesting things about the wall:
-It is about 2145 (3469km) long and during its construction, was called “the longest cemetery on earth” because so many people died building it — possibly more than one million people.
– It has been built, added to and rebuilt over 1850 years by the the Han (206 B.C.-A.D 220), Sui (A.D. 581-618), Jin (115-1234) and, most famously, the Ming dynasty in 1368-1644. Today what survives are the stone and brick walls from the Ming dynasty.
-During the Ming dynasty, nearly one million soldiers defended the Great Wall from “barbarians” and non-Chinese.
– Before the Ming dynasty, the wall was built with rammed earth, adobe, and stone. About 70% is made from rammed earth and adobe. Bricks were used after the Ming dynasty. The mortar was made from rice flour.
The manpower to build the Great Wall came from frontier guards, peasants, unemployed intellectuals, disgraced noblemen, and convicts, The Chinese invented the wheelbarrow and used it in building the Great Wall.
Contrary to belief, it cannot be seen from the moon without aid.
There are over 10,000 watch towers at intervals along the Great Wall up to 40 feet tall. They were used as lookouts, fortresses and signal stations, where beacons, smoke, or flags were used to send messages. Here are two watchtowers.
To defend the wall, the Chinese used axes, sledge hammers, lances, crossbows, and a Chinese invention: gunpowder. The last battle fought at the Great Wall was in 1938 during the Sino-Japanese War, which was between China and Japan. Bullet marks can still be seen in the wall.