The Great Wall of China: A Majestic Dragon’s Legacy

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The Great Wall’s origins trace back to the third century B.C., during the reign of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Originally conceived as a means of preventing incursions from barbarian nomads, it evolved into much more than a mere defensive structure. Here are key points that illuminate its historical importance:

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  1. Qin Dynasty Construction:
    • While the Great Wall’s beginnings can be traced to the fifth century B.C., many of its fortifications date from hundreds of years earlier, when China was divided into a number of individual kingdoms during the so-called Warring States Period.
    • Around 220 B.C., Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of a unified China under the Qin Dynasty, ordered that earlier fortifications between states be removed and a number of existing walls along the northern border be joined into a single system that would extend for more than 10,000 li (about one-third of a mile) and protect China against attacks from the north.
      Great Wall Of China, ChinaPhoto by Hanson Lu on Unsplash
      • Construction of the “Wan Li Chang Cheng,” or 10,000-Li-Long Wall, was one of the most ambitious building projects ever undertaken by any civilization.
      • The famous Chinese general Meng Tian initially directed the project, and was said to have used a massive army of soldiers, convicts, and commoners as workers.

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      • Made mostly of earth and stone, the wall stretched from the China Sea port of Shanhaiguan over 3,000 miles west into Gansu province.
      • In some strategic areas, sections of the wall overlapped for maximum security (including the Badaling stretch, north of Beijing, that was later restored during the Ming Dynasty).
      • From a base of 15 to 50 feet, the Great Wall rose some 15-30 feet high and was topped by ramparts 12 feet or higher; guard towers were distributed at intervals along it.

Free Great Wall Of China China photo and pictureAndreas Schneemayer from Pixabay

2. Symbol of Enduring Strength:

    • Although the Great Wall never effectively prevented invaders from entering China, it transcended its practical purpose.
    • It became a powerful symbol of Chinese civilization’s resilience and ability to withstand external threats.
    • When Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered construction of the Great Wall around 221 B.C., the labor force that built the wall was made up largely of soldiers and convicts. It is said that as many as 400,000 people died during the wall’s construction; many of these workers were buried within the wall itself.

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3. Great Wall of China Through the Centuries:

      • With the death of Qin Shi Huang and the fall of the Qin Dynasty, much of the Great Wall fell into disrepair.
      • After the fall of the later Han Dynasty, a series of frontier tribes seized control in northern China.
      • The most powerful of these was the Northern Wei Dynasty, which repaired and extended the existing wall to defend against attacks from other tribes.
Great Wall of China
Photo by Rita Chou on Unsplash

Modern Significance

Beyond its historical context, the Great Wall continues to captivate the world:

  1. UNESCO World Heritage Site:
    • In 1987, UNESCO designated the Great Wall as a World Heritage site.
    • It represents not only China’s historical achievements but also its ability to withstand foreign invasions.
  2. Cultural Identity and Tourism:
    • The Great Wall draws visitors from around the globe, standing as a testament to China’s enduring cultural identity.
    • Tourists explore its winding paths, ancient watchtowers, and breathtaking vistas.
    • It remains a top tourist attraction, inviting travelers to walk in the footsteps of emperors and defenders.
  3. Literary and Artistic Inspiration:
    • The Great Wall inspires Chinese literary art, poetry, and folklore.
    • A sentence in the Chinese national anthem praises and memorializes the Wall.
    • Artists, writers, and photographers continue to capture its grandeur and mystique.

China, dragon, and Great Wall without modern people, add ancient Chinese people

In summary, the Great Wall of China transcends time, bridging ancient history with the present. As we gaze upon its weathered stones and contemplate its legacy, we honor the enduring spirit of those who built it—a testament to human endurance and the indomitable will to protect and preserve

brown concrete building on top of hillPhoto by William Olivieri on Unsplash
Feature Photo credits – The Great Wall of China: Envisioning the Great Dragon (

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