Friday, February 22, 2008

The Great Wall of China

The day after our arrival in Beijing, we took our first tour to The Great Wall of China. The tour was roughly 7 hours including travel time, lunch and a few other stops along the way. This was a really awesome tour, the history of the Wall and actually being able to walk along it was really amazing. We also had a great tour guide which made the day that much more fun!

The weather was fairly cold, but by the same token, it was nice not to climb the wall in the sweltering heat with 5x the people! However, we would still go back to see the wall during the warmer season.

History (courtesy of Wikipedia):

The Great Wall of China is a series of stone and earthen fortifications in China, built, rebuilt, and maintained between the 5th century BC and the 16th century to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire during the rule of successive dynasties. Several walls, referred to as the Great Wall of China, were built since the 5th century BC. The most famous is the wall built between 220 BC and 200 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang; little of it remains; it was much farther north than the current wall, which was built during the Ming Dynasty.

The Great Wall stretches over approximately 6,508 km (4,000 miles) from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Nur in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia, but stretches to over 6,700 km (4,160 miles) in total. At its peak, the Ming Wall was guarded by more than one million men. It has been estimated that somewhere in the range of 2 to 3 million Chinese died as part of the centuries-long project of building the wall. (Wikipedia)

Entrance to the Great Wall is a tourist trap, equipped even with a roller coaster type ride to the top! There is also a fake wall built a few miles before the Badaling that was built for overflow tourists. Our tour guide informed us that even though, "in China, we can copy anything," the Badaling section of the Great wall was authentic.

We took a kind of rollercoaster ride up to tower 4 and then climbed to tower 8 on foot. I don't think anyone had a choice but to use the rollercoaster, unless you climbed up from somewhere on the other side of the mountain.

The Great Wall loaded with tourists like us!

The Great Wall is coagulated with Chinese labors' wisdom, sweat and toil. Ancient records report that at least one million slaves and prisoners of war were conscripted to build the great wall which followed the contour of the land, taking advantage of natural defenses. As many died from exhaustion and starvation while working on this colossal task, the Wall was also known as "the longest cemetery in the world."

The bricks, rocks and lime used to build the wall had to be carried up to the mountains by bare shoulders. Those who succeeded in climbing the wall today are often regarded as "real heroes", from this we should realize the difficulty in climbing the wall, and can imagine how difficult it is to build the Great Wall without modern machinery at that time. Chairman Mao proclaimed that any person who wanted to be a real hero must climb the Great Wall, which has inspired many ambitious visitors. All tourists now know Chairman Mao's famous words, "He who does not reach the Great Wall is not a real hero!"

"He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man" -Mao Zedong

"This is a Great Wall and only great people with a great past could have a great wall and such a great people with such a great wall will surely have a great future" -Richard Nixon