What is the purpose of the Great Wall of China?

Tourist Attractions

By Erica Silverstein

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is one of the most iconic landmarks in China, and it is recognized globally as one of the greatest feats of engineering in human history. The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications that stretches over 13,000 miles, constructed in ancient China’s northern borders. The Great Wall of China was built to protect China from foreign invasions, and it has become a symbol of China’s national identity and cultural heritage.

Historical Context: China’s Dynasties and Defense

The Great Wall of China’s construction began during the Warring States period in China’s history, around 400 BC, with individual kingdoms building walls to protect their territories. During the Qin Dynasty, the walls were joined together and extended, creating the first version of the Great Wall that we know today. Subsequently, the Great Wall was expanded and rebuilt during the Han, Ming, and Qing Dynasties. The Great Wall of China served as a crucial defense structure, protecting China from invasions by nomads such as the Mongols and Manchus.

Significance: Protection and Imperial Power

The Great Wall of China served multiple purposes throughout its construction and existence. It initially served as a fortification to protect China’s northern borders from invasions. However, it also served as a symbol of imperial power, as the Chinese emperors who built the wall wanted to show their strength in protecting their citizens from foreign threats. Additionally, the Great Wall of China played an important role in controlling trade and taxation.

The Construction of the Great Wall: Methods and Materials

The Great Wall of China was constructed using a variety of materials, including brick, tamped earth, stone, and wood. The wall’s construction methods varied depending on the location, with some sections of the wall using rammed earth, while others used stone or brick. The workers who constructed the Great Wall were typically peasants, soldiers, and prisoners who were forced to work on the wall. The construction process was brutal, with workers facing harsh living conditions, long hours, and dangerous work environments.

The Length of the Great Wall: Myth vs. Reality

The Great Wall of China’s length has been a topic of debate over the years, with many myths and legends surrounding the wall’s length. The myth that the Great Wall of China is visible from space is untrue, as it is only visible to the naked eye from low Earth orbit. The wall’s actual length is approximately 13,170 miles, including all its branches and spurs.

The Great Wall’s Military Function: Guarding Against Invasion

The Great Wall of China served as a crucial defense structure for China, protecting the country from foreign invasions throughout its history. The wall was equipped with watchtowers, fortresses, and garrisons, allowing the defenders to spot and repel any invasions. The Great Wall’s military function was significant, as it allowed China to maintain its independence and sovereignty.

The Cultural Importance of the Great Wall: National Identity

The Great Wall of China is an integral part of China’s national identity, and it is considered to be one of the most important cultural symbols of the country. The wall’s cultural importance lies in its historical significance, as it represents China’s ancient civilization, its rich cultural heritage, and the persistence and resilience of the Chinese people.

The Great Wall’s Economic Function: Trade and Taxes

The Great Wall of China played an important role in controlling trade and taxation in ancient China. The wall’s fortifications served as a checkpoint for goods entering and leaving China, allowing the Chinese government to control trade and collect taxes. Additionally, the Great Wall provided protection to the Silk Road, one of the most important trade routes in ancient China.

Great Wall Tourism: A Modern Phenomenon

The Great Wall of China is one of the most popular tourist attractions in China, with millions of visitors every year. The wall’s popularity as a tourist destination began in the 20th century, with the Chinese government promoting the wall as a symbol of China’s cultural heritage and national identity. Today, visitors can explore various sections of the Great Wall, from restored sections to the more remote and less-visited areas.

The Future of the Great Wall: Preservation and Restoration

The Great Wall of China is facing several challenges, including erosion, weathering, and human damage. The Chinese government has taken measures to preserve and restore the wall, including restoring damaged sections, monitoring the wall’s structural integrity, and implementing sustainable tourism practices.

Criticisms of the Great Wall: Human Cost and Inefficiency

The Great Wall of China’s construction came at a significant human cost, with thousands of workers dying during the construction process due to harsh living conditions, long hours, and dangerous work environments. Additionally, the wall’s construction was often inefficient and ineffective, with some sections of the wall being conquered and breached by invading forces.

Conclusion: The Great Wall of China’s Enduring Legacy

The Great Wall of China’s enduring legacy is a testament to the wall’s significance and importance in Chinese history and culture. As a symbol of China’s national identity, the Great Wall of China continues to serve as a reminder of China’s ancient civilization, cultural heritage, and resilience. As a tourist attraction, the wall attracts millions of visitors every year, contributing to China’s cultural and economic development. The Great Wall of China’s legacy will continue to endure, as long as efforts are made to preserve and protect this iconic landmark.

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Erica Silverstein

Erica, a seasoned travel writer with 20+ years of experience, started her career as a Let's Go guidebook editor in college. As the head of Cruise Critic's features team for a decade, she gained extensive knowledge. Her adventurous nature has taken her to Edinburgh, Australia, the Serengeti, and on luxury cruises in Europe and the Caribbean. During her journeys, she enjoys savoring local chocolates and conquering various summits.

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