Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Great Wall of China, China

The Great Wall is perhaps China's most famous and most mythologized site. Several sections are conveniently visited from Beijing, including at Badaling, the most popular site, about 70 km (43 mi.) northwest of Beijing and at Mutianyu, 90 km (56 mi.) northeast of Beijing. These impressive brick and earth structures date from the Ming dynasty, when the wall was fortified against Mongol forces to the north. It has been built in several stages and was at its prime time more than 8000 km long.  The Ming sections of the wall are only a late stage in a long history, much of which has little to do with the present structures. The wall is most often associated with the First Emperor of China (Qin Shi Huangdi, reigned 221- 210 BC ) , who after unifying China by conquest undertook to link up previously existing sections of walls belonging to conquered states, but on a course far to the north of the present wall. The First Emperor mobilized massive conscripted labor forces, by some accounts up to a million strong, to conduct this building campaign.

The wall served as a symbolic reminder of dynastic authority and also of cultural distinction between settled agrarian culture and cities on the Chinese side and pastoral horsemen on the other. It continues today to serve as a marker of cultural and national identity. 

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