The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is truly one of the greatest architectural achievements in recorded history. The longest structure ever built, it is about 6,700 kilometers (4,163 miles) long and made entirely by hand. This wall is said to be visible from the moon. It crosses Northern China, from the East coast to Central China (Karls, 1). This massive wall is not only one of the ancient wonders of the world, but it also has been the inspiration of many writers and artists. With a history of more than 2,000 years, some of the sections of the Great Wall are now in ruins or even entirely disappeared. However, it is still one of the most appealing attractions all around the world, because of its architectural greatness and historical significance.
The Great Wall’s construction began in 221 BC under the emperor Meng Tien, of the Chin Dynasty (Twitchett, 2). Continual invasions and wars from the barbarians to the North drove the emperor to order its construction to protect the newly unified China. It started at Lintao and extended to Liaotung, reaching a distance of more than 10,000 Li. After crossing the Yellow River, it wound northward, touching the Yang Mountains (Twitchett, 2). Although the wall is considered to be well under 10,000 Li (one Li is approximately a third of a mile) it was truly an amazing accomplishment (Twitchett, 2).
Meng Tien employed some 300,000 men in the creation of the original section of the wall. The building of such a massive wall would definitely be a huge task. A wall that stretches through the wilderness is not easily accessed by supply lines, unlike a highway that creates its own supply line (Delahoye, 3). There was also a massive loss of lives during the construction of the wall, due to widespread disease and injury (Delahoye, 3). In fact it is an Ancient Chinese myth, that each stone in the wall stands for a life lost in the wall’s construction (Delahoye, 3). It is recorded that Meng Tien’s section of the wall took only ten years to build, but it is believed that it actually took a substantially greater amount of time (Delahoye, 3). After Meng Tien’s original construction the wall was far from completed. Other walls were added to and encompassed within The Great Wall. The last major work on the wall was completed during the Ming Dynasty around 1500 (Delahoye, 3). The Great Wall extends around 1,500 miles in an east-west direction. It travels through four provinces (Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Gansu) beginning in northern Hebei and ending in the northwest Gansu province (Delahoye, 3).
The Great Wall is built of many different materials, from granite blocks to tamped earth (Ledoux, 4). These materials ranging from 15 to 50 feet high with a base width between 15 and 30 feet, the wall had guard towers spread along the entire length of the wall (Ledoux, 4). The Great Wall of China was built by stacking mud or clay bricks one by one on top of each other. The brick was first produced in a sun-dried form at least 6,000 years ago, and is the prototype of a wide range of clay building products used today (Ledoux, 4). It is the small building unit in the form of a rectangular block, formed from clay, shale, or other mixtures and burned in a oven, to produce strength, hardness, and heat resistance (Ledoux, 4). The original concept of ancient brick-makers was that the unit should not be bigger than what one man could easily handle (Ledoux, 4).
To understand the Great Wall it is necessary to know the many components of the wall, and their purposes. The Great Wall was renovated from time to time after the Qin Dynasty. A major renovation started with the founding of the Ming Dynasty in 1368, and took 200 years to complete (Karls, 1). The wall seen today is almost exactly the result of this effort. With a total length of over 6,000 kilometers, it extends to the Jiayu Pass in Gansu Province, and in the west to the mouth of the Yalu River in the Liaoning Province in the east (Karls, 1). What