The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications that were built across the northern border of China as a defensive measure against foreign invaders, especially Mongol invaders. Several walls were built starting from the 7th Century BC. Later it was joined by Qin Shi Huang (220-206 BC) the first emperor of China. Many successive dynasties built and maintained the wall. The Ming dynasty built the better part of the wall (1368-1644). The length of the wall is more than 21000 km, the height is 25 feet and the width is 20 feet. Apart from defense, other purposes of the wall were the Imposition of duties on goods transportation and emigration. It is quite surprising that the wall took about 2000 years to be built. At regular intervals, watch towers were built. Moreover, barracks, garrison Stations, and Signalling stations, through fire or smoke, were also built. The path of the Great Wall served as a transportation corridor.
The Great Wall of China is an architectural marvel. It is on the Unesco heritage list. The wall stretches from Liadong in the east to Lop Lake in the west, from the present-day Sino-Russian border in the north to Tao River in the south.
The Chinese were familiar with the techniques of wall building. Transporting the large quantity of materials required for construction was difficult. So local materials were used. Stone of mountains were used and rammed earth was used in the plains. Most of the ancient walls have been damaged by the ravages of Nature. Very few portions remain today. The human cost of the construction is not correctly known. Hundreds and thousands of men have died during the construction of the wall.
As Mongol raids continued periodically over the years, the Ming devoted enough resources to repair and reinforce the walls. Under Qing rule, china’s border extended beyond the wall and Mongolia was annexed into the empire. So the construction of the Great Wall was discontinued. it is strange that none of the Europeans who visited China or Mongolia in the 13th and 14th Centuries mentioned the Great Wall.
But the North African traveller Ibn Bantuta who also visited China in 1346 AD had heard about the Great Wall before he went there. After visiting he wrote – the wall is Sixty days travel. He associated it with the legend of the wall mentioned in the Quran.
After the arrival of Europeans by ship in the early 16th century, accounts of the Great Wall started to circulate in Europe. Still, no European was to see it for another century. In 1585, Mendoza described the wall as a “Superbious” and mighty work of architecture. When China opened its borders to foreign merchants and visitors after its defeat in the opium wars, the Great Wall became an attraction for tourists. The travel accounts of the late 19th Century enhanced the reputation and mythology of the Great Wall.
It is believed that the Great Wall of China can be Seen from the moon. It 1754 the English antiquary William Stukeley wrote – the Chinese wall which makes a considerable figure upon the terrestrial globe, and may be discerned at the moon. In 1895 Henry Norman stated that besides its age it enjoyed the reputation of being the only work of human hands on the Globe visible from the moon.
(The views expressed are the writer’s own.)
Radhakanta Seth is an Income tax officer in Sambalpur. He is a Freelance writer and his articles have been published in some Oriya dailies like Sambad, Samaj, Dharitri and English dailies like The Telegraph and in a sociological journal ‘Folklore’ published from Kolkata.