Great Wall

There is a saying in China, "He who has never been to the Great Wall is not a true man." The Great Wall of China is often regarded as an eight wonder of the world and rightly so. Famous throughout the world because of its incredible length, most people do not realize that it is not just one long wall, but different sections that have been built in different areas through the centuries and linked together at different times. Together they are all the Great Wall.

Construction of the wall began during the Warring States Period (5th century BC to 221 BC) States including Qin, Yan, Zhao, Wei and Qi each built there own sections of wall out of earth to protect themselves. The Qin Dynasty was established in 221 B.C. by Emperor Qin Shi Huang and he ordered the northern sections to be linked as well as a new wall to create a unified northern defense.

During the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) more sections were built along the general northern Mongol border to keep hostile tribes out. These were built stronger using new techniques with brick and stone and were regularly reinforced after any attacks.

Altogether the wall is about 8850km long in total although only 6250km of this is actual wall. The rest in made up of linked trenches and natural barriers such as rivers and hills. Obvious features are the hundreds of watchtowers built along its length and on high points, as communication was essential between all the guards. The manpower used to build all the wall runs into millions and is an amazing feat of human achievement.

Today a lot of the wall has fallen into disrepair and is in very bad condition. The strongest and best preserved sections are around the capital Beijing. These have been restored and attract visitors from all over the world. Some of the best include: Badaling, once lined by thousands of guards defending Beijing, it stands 7.8m high and 5m wide; Jinshanling, which has 67 watchtowers and known for its construction on very steep slopes; Simatai, which has features of different sections of the wall and regarded by many as the best section, and Mutianyu, famed for the beautiful scenery it winds through.

Depending on what area of the north you are in, there are many chances to see the wall. All will make you leave knowing you have seen one of the world's greatest sights.