For what purpose does China use the Great Wall as a symbol?

Tourist Attractions

By Kristy Tolley

China’s Great Wall as a Symbol

The Great Wall of China is an iconic symbol that represents China’s rich history, culture, and heritage. This architectural marvel is not only a world-famous tourist attraction but also holds great significance in Chinese politics, diplomacy, and nationalism. The Great Wall’s symbolic value has evolved over time and has played different roles in China’s history, from a defensive barrier to a cultural symbol.

Historical Significance of the Great Wall

The Great Wall has been an integral part of China’s history for over 2,000 years. It was built to protect China from invasions by nomadic tribes from the north. The construction of the Great Wall began as early as the 7th century BC and continued through the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The wall stretches over 13,000 miles across China, making it the longest wall in the world.

The Great Wall was not just a defensive barrier but also a trade route for merchants and a means of communication for military forces. The wall’s construction was a significant engineering feat, using a variety of materials such as stone, brick, tamped earth, and wood. The Great Wall’s historical significance cannot be overstated, as it represents China’s enduring strength, determination, and resilience in the face of adversity.

The Ming Dynasty’s Use of the Great Wall as a Symbol

During the Ming Dynasty, the Great Wall became a symbol of national identity and pride. The Ming rulers undertook major renovations of the wall and added fortresses, watchtowers, and barracks to strengthen its defense capabilities. The Ming government also introduced a policy called "border defense and pacification," which involved the resettlement of Han Chinese in the border regions and the assimilation of minority groups. This policy was aimed at strengthening the Ming’s control over the northern territories and promoting ethnic unity.

The Ming Dynasty’s use of the Great Wall as a symbol was not just limited to military defense. The wall also represented China’s cultural and artistic achievements. During the Ming Dynasty, the wall was decorated with magnificent murals and inscriptions, reflecting the Ming’s artistic and literary accomplishments. The Ming rulers also commissioned elaborate gates and archways to be built along the wall, which served as grand entrances to the empire.

Sino-Japanese War and the Great Wall as a Symbol

The Great Wall played a crucial role in China’s resistance against Japanese aggression during World War II. The wall was used as a strategic defense line against the Japanese invasion, and the Chinese soldiers fought valiantly to defend it. The Great Wall became a symbol of the Chinese people’s resistance against foreign aggression and their determination to defend their homeland.

After the war, the Great Wall became a symbol of China’s victory over Japan and their contribution to the Allied victory. The Great Wall’s symbolic value was further enhanced when the Japanese government was forced to apologize for their war atrocities committed in China, and the Chinese government received war reparations.

The Cultural Revolution and the Great Wall as a Symbol

During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the Great Wall underwent a significant transformation in its symbolic value. The wall was no longer seen as a symbol of China’s cultural and artistic achievements but as a symbol of feudalism, capitalism, and old ways of thinking. The Great Wall was criticized for being a symbol of the oppressive ruling class and was targeted for destruction by the Red Guards.

However, the Great Wall’s symbolic value was restored after the Cultural Revolution ended. The Chinese government realized the Great Wall’s importance as a cultural and historical monument and started major restoration work on the wall. The Great Wall once again became a symbol of China’s rich history, culture, and heritage.

Modern China’s Use of the Great Wall as a Symbol

In modern China, the Great Wall continues to be a symbol of national pride and identity. The Great Wall is featured on China’s currency, stamps, and official emblems. The Chinese government has also designated the Great Wall as a World Heritage Site and invested heavily in its preservation and restoration. The Great Wall is also used as a backdrop for major events such as the Beijing Olympics and the G20 summit.

The Great Wall’s symbolic value has also extended beyond China’s borders. The Great Wall has become a symbol of China’s growing power and influence in the world. The Great Wall’s image is often used in Chinese diplomacy to project a message of strength, unity, and cultural heritage.

The Great Wall in Chinese Literature and Art

The Great Wall has been a source of inspiration for Chinese writers and artists for centuries. The Great Wall has been featured in many literary works, such as the famous poem "A View of the Great Wall" by the Tang Dynasty poet Wang Zhihuan. The Great Wall has also been the subject of many paintings, depicting its grandeur and magnificence.

The Great Wall’s symbolic value in Chinese literature and art extends beyond its physical structure. The Great Wall represents China’s cultural and artistic achievements, its historical significance, and its resilience in the face of adversity.

The Great Wall’s Role in Chinese Tourism

The Great Wall is China’s most popular tourist attraction, attracting millions of visitors every year. The Great Wall’s tourism industry has been a significant source of revenue for China’s economy, and the Chinese government has invested heavily in the Great Wall’s tourism infrastructure.

The Great Wall’s tourism value extends beyond its historical and cultural significance. The Great Wall’s natural beauty, scenic views, and adventure activities such as hiking and camping have made it a popular destination for tourists from around the world.

The Great Wall’s Role in Chinese Diplomacy

The Great Wall has been used in Chinese diplomacy to project a message of strength, unity, and cultural heritage. The Great Wall’s image is often used to represent China’s history and culture in international forums and events. The Great Wall has also been the site of many diplomatic events, such as the historic meeting between U.S. President Richard Nixon and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1972.

The Great Wall’s symbolic value in Chinese diplomacy extends beyond its cultural and historical significance. The Great Wall represents China’s growing power and influence in the world and its desire to play a greater role in international affairs.

The Great Wall’s Role in Chinese Nationalism

The Great Wall has been a symbol of Chinese nationalism for centuries. The Great Wall represents China’s territorial integrity, cultural heritage, and national pride. The Great Wall has been used to inspire patriotism and promote national unity in China.

The Great Wall’s symbolic value in Chinese nationalism extends beyond its physical structure. The Great Wall represents China’s determination to defend its sovereignty and its desire to become a powerful and influential nation in the world.

Criticisms of China’s Use of the Great Wall as a Symbol

China’s use of the Great Wall as a symbol has not been without criticism. Some critics argue that China’s emphasis on the Great Wall’s historical and cultural significance overlooks its social and economic significance. Others criticize China’s use of the Great Wall as a tool for promoting nationalism and its desire for global influence.

Some critics also argue that the Great Wall’s tourism industry has led to overcrowding, pollution, and degradation of the wall’s physical structure. They argue that the Chinese government’s emphasis on tourism has come at the expense of the wall’s historical and cultural significance.

Conclusion: The Continuing Importance of the Great Wall as a Symbol

The Great Wall of China is a symbol of China’s rich history, culture, and heritage. The Great Wall’s symbolic value has evolved over time and has played different roles in China’s history, from a defensive barrier to a cultural symbol. The Great Wall’s symbolic value extends beyond China’s borders and has been used in Chinese diplomacy to project a message of strength, unity, and cultural heritage.

The Great Wall’s symbolic value has not been without criticism, but its importance as a cultural, historical, and national symbol remains significant. The Great Wall will continue to be an integral part of China’s identity and a source of inspiration for Chinese writers, artists, and tourists for generations to come.

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Kristy Tolley

Kristy Tolley, an accomplished editor at TravelAsker, boasts a rich background in travel content creation. Before TravelAsker, she led editorial efforts at Red Ventures Puerto Rico, shaping content for Platea English. Kristy's extensive two-decade career spans writing and editing travel topics, from destinations to road trips. Her passion for travel and storytelling inspire readers to embark on their own journeys.

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