Why the Great Wall of China Remains an Awe-Inspiring Symbol

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By Derrick Mattson

I remember growing up in the Midwest and thinking we were awesome when our snow wall grew to 4 feet tall and was able to stop small animals and annoying neighbor kids from entering our fort. What my brothers and I were able to accomplish was nothing compared to the Chinese when they built the Great Wall of China. The wall is great not only for its’ size but also the amount of men (over 500,000), resources (tons upon tons), distance (13,000 miles), and time (2,000 years) it took to construct this marvelous defensive too. The walls purpose was to pose a formidable defense to China’s enemies and to stop migration from Central Asia and it more than fulfilled those needs.

Construction began somewhere around the 5th century BC by the Qin Dynasty and ended in the 16th century AD with the Ming Dynasty. This awesome man made feature was constructed in several segments, with each new ruler and dynasty adding more. In the end, the wall stretched over 13,000 miles in length. Struggling to grasp that distance? That is roughly the same distance as traveling from New York to Argentina. Need more clarity, how about the fact that 13,000 miles would be more than 4 trips from San Francisco to Maryland (going to need some snacks and drinks for this trip). Along with the great distance covered, it was also formidable in height, ranging from 16-25 feet tall and 25-30 feet wide. That is the when it was built, next we discuss the how it was built.

How they built the Great Wall of China

During the Qin dynasty, labors would build a foundation out of raw earth. From there the laborers would put clay on top of the raw earth to create a stronger, more stable foundation. On top of that, they would build walls with supports that they would fill with dirt that they would then pack. In addition to using dirt, they would insert rocks and other debris in a manner that would add greater strength and stability to the wall. Due to their lack of advanced technologies there are little to no remnants of these segments of the wall remaining.

Derrick Mattson1Image: Great-WallOfChina.com

As time passed and the wall expanded, we reach the Ming dynasty. The Ming dynasty had far superior and advanced building technologies and techniques available to them. They were able to use this technology to develop the bricks that we see today. They would use the same techniques as during the Qin dynasty to build the inner portion of the wall. From there they would use the bricks that they had built to incase the raw earth and debris. This increased the walls strength and stability. These are the major portions of the wall that is still seen today. Even with a massive wall, people were still needed to defend the border of China.

The fact that there is a massive wall in front of them, did not mean that invaders did not try to get over or through the wall. To add to the abilities of the wall the Chinese built over 25,000 watchtowers. Since the wall was so big it was impossible for the Chinese to man the wall in its’ entirety. They used garrisons filled with troops strategically placed along the wall. When guards in the watchtowers would see a threat, they would light a fire that would be seen by other towers in the area. They would light their fire and so on and so forth until word made it to the garrison. Once the garrison received word, they would prepare to defend their homeland and move to where they were needed. For those Game of Throne fans, it is similar to how the Night’s Watch operates. If that means nothing of you think of the Lord of the Rings when they did the same thing to alert the entire kingdom of the impending attack.

Derrick Mattson 2Image: Great-WallOfChina.com

Can you really see it from space?

What’s that, you heard you can see it from space? That is correct and here are a few examples.

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Bottom: WordPress

Two-thousand years, 13,000 miles, 500,000 laborers and an absurd amount of materials and what do you have? A massive wall that can be seen from space. The intent was to thwart invasions and migration from central Asia. What China did was not only repel invaders and migrants, they left something that is now considered one of the great wonders of the world, and is something that even the everyday person can appreciate it. It was capable of succeeding for over 2,000 years at keeping people out, now it draws millions in.

Preview image: Jakub Halun

About the Author

Derrick Mattson
I am a lover of History. I had an awesome 15-year military career traveling all over the world. I have been able to see many of the things I have heard or read about during my studies. I have a B.A. in History and teach 6-8 graders. I think that everyone needs to know about the world’s history. To reach the non-history lover it history needs to be entertaining/interesting. I strive to do that not only speaking to people but also in the classroom.

1 Comment on "Why the Great Wall of China Remains an Awe-Inspiring Symbol"

  1. I wish I had a hisory teacher with your passion. The students are lucky to have you in the classroom.

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