March 4, 2022 7 min read
Considered one of the most remarkable architectural marvels in history, The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications that were built across the historical northern frontiers of ancient Chinese states and Imperial China.
Did you know the many different purposes this Great Wall served?
Besides protection of the empire, the Great Wall has served additional objectives such as border controls, allowing for the application of tariffs on products transported over the Silk Road, trade regulation or encouragement, and immigration and emigration control. The construction of watchtowers, troop barracks, garrison stations, signaling capabilities through smoke or fire, and the fact that the Great Wall's course also acted as a transportation corridor all contributed to the Great Wall's defensive qualities.
Let’s first learn why the Great Wall was built, by whom and how such an amazing architectural feat was carried out long before the age of bulldozers and forklifts.
Historically, these structures were intended to keep nomadic tribes from the Eurasian Steppe at bay. Several walls were constructed beginning in the 7th century BC, with Qin Shi Huang (220–206 BC), China's first emperor, later connecting selected portions. Only a little portion of the Qin wall has survived. Many consecutive dynasties would later construct and maintain multiple lengths of border walls. The Ming dynasty (1368–1644) built the most well-known parts of the wall.
Distinct dynasties built different courses of boundary walls. They range approximately 20,000 kilometres (12,000 miles) from Liaodong in the east to Lop Lake in the west, from the present-day Sino–Russian border in the north to the Tao River (Tahoe) in the south, along an arc that roughly delineates the edge of the Mongolian steppe. The Great Wall's protective system is now widely regarded as one of history's most spectacular architectural masterpieces.
The Great Wall was mostly made of rammed earth, stones, and timber before bricks were used. During the Ming Dynasty, however, bricks, as well as materials like tiles, lime, and stone, were heavily used in numerous places of the wall. The bricks' size and weight made them easier to deal with than mud and stone, allowing construction to move more quickly. Furthermore, bricks could support greater weight and last longer than rammed earth. Stone can withstand more weight than brick, but it is more difficult to work with. As a result, rectangular-shaped stones were utilized for the wall's foundation, inner and outer brims, and entrances.
The great part of the wall is lined with battlements, which have defensive openings that are roughly 30 cm (12 in) height and 23 cm (9.1 in) broad. Guards could see out over the surrounding land from the parapets. Communication between army units throughout the Great Wall's length, especially the ability to summon reinforcements and warn garrisons of enemy movements, was crucial. For visibility, signal towers were placed on hilltops or other high locations along the wall. Wooden gates could be used to catch those passing through. Near the inner surface of the wall, barracks, stables, and armories were constructed.
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