A Wall for Defence
Several sections of the Great Wall were built and reinforced in Beijing for the purpose of defence, including sections of Badaling, Mutianyu, Simatai, Jiankou and Juyongguan as well as Huanghuacheng Lakeside Great Wall. Those sections of the Great Wall remain magnificent even though they have witnessed changes throughout history. They can reflect Chinese people's wisdom and diligence in creating history.
Lengthy and Intermittent Construction
The Great Wall's history represents the history of the Chinese nation to some extent and its construction dates to the 9th century BC, the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century–771 BC). In 221 BC, Qin Shi Huang (259–210 BC), China's first emperor, founded the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC), the first unified feudalist dynasty in the history of China, who then focused on enhancing the border defence in order to consolidate unification of the country, develop production and stabilise civilian life.
He ordered to demolish walls and moats left by vassal states in the Warring States Period and dispatched General Mengtian (circa 259–210 BC) to lead 300,000 people to build the Great Wall. His move aimed to defend the Qin Dynasty from aggression by the Xiongnu, a militant ethnic minority in northern China. Meng spent about 10 years building an over-5,000-kilometre length of the Great Wall stretching from Lintao, Gansu in the west to Liaodong Prefecture (today's Liaoning Province) in the east.
In 206 BC, the Qin Dynasty was overthrown and the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC–AD 24) came to power. Afterwards, Emperor Wu (157–87 BC) of the Western Han Dynasty repaired and expanded the Great Wall of the Qin Dynasty.
In 1368, the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) was established and construction and repair of the Great Wall became a regular duty. It took over 20 years to build the last section of the Great Wall, stretching from the banks of the Yalu River in Liaoning Province to the Jiayu Pass in Gansu Province. It remains as the existing Great Wall.
After undergoing great changes in history, the Great Wall is still magnificent and relatively well preserved. In June 2012, according to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, the total length of all great walls built in different periods is 21,196.18 kilometres.
There are a total of 43,721 remains of the Great Wall from the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, Qin, Han (206 BC–AD 220), Southern and Northern Dynasties (AD 429–581), Sui (AD 581–618), Tang (618–907), Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (AD 907– 960), Song (AD 960–1279), Liao (916–1125), Jin (1115–1234), Ming and Qing.
A Significant Role in Defence
The Great Wall containing walls, terraces, towers and trenches, constitutes a complete defence system.
In the mid-ming Dynasty, Qi Jiguang (1528–1588), a famous general who resisted against the Japanese, greatly renovated and upgraded fortifications of the Great Wall by heightening and reinforcing it, establishing crenels on both sides of the wall and adding holes for shooting on the lower part of the wall. Additionally, some strategic sections of the wall were capped with multilayer barrier walls to fight against enemies climbing onto the wall. Qi also built stations along the Great Wall for the army stationed at the wall.
The communication network of the Great Wall was based on countless beacon towers, which were built at strategic places or on mountains. If enemies surfaced, smoke would be released in daytime but fires started at night. The quantity of smoke or fires indicates the number of troops. To transmit information as soon as possible, beacon towers would send signals (smoke or fires) in turn.
Currently, the Great Wall no longer needs to play its role in defence but only helps people to recall past wars and explore the wall's locations, structures, materials and construction.
A Symbol of Civilisation
Throughout history, many wars broke out near the Great Wall, a source for many war stories. In the Qin Dynasty, Meng Tian led hundreds of thousands of troops and civilians in integrating the defensive walls north of Qin, Zhao and Yan states in the Warring States Period into a new wall, while repairing and reinforcing the wall. By means of the wall, Meng fought off Xiongnu troops several times, which made him a hero in the Qin Dynasty.
In the Western Han Dynasty, renowned generals Wei Qing (year of birth uncertain–106 BC) and Huo Qubing (140–117 BC) also became victorious over their Xiongnu enemies. During the Ming Dynasty, Qi Jiguang played an important role in renovating and reinforcing the Great Wall and built it into an impassable line of defence.
In modern times, the Great Wall became a symbol of Chinese resistance against the Japanese aggression, witnessing Chinese troops' bravery in fighting against the Japanese invaders.
In addition to its role in defense, the Great Wall is also a symbol of Chinese civilisation and spirit. Today, sections of the Great Wall in Beijing, such as Badaling, Mutianyu, Simatai, Jiankou and Juyongguan as well as Huanghuacheng Lakeside Great Wall, have become popular scenic resorts, drawing tourism from both Chinese and foreigners.
Badaling Section of the Great Wall
Jiankou Great Wall