Tuesday, March 15, 2011

7 wonders of the world's fourth Great Wall of China

. Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Great Wall of China was actually built in several phases. The first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, built one in the 3rd century B.C., but the one that we see today is mostly the construction of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.), the penultimate Chinese dynasty. The purpose of the Wall was to keep out the “barbarian” Mongolian and Manchurian hordes from the north, much as the Roman Empire built Hadrian’s Wall, separating Scotland from England, to keep out the “barbarian” Scottish hordes from the north. Ironically, the Ming Dynasty finally fell because of a Chinese general who was dissatisfied with his own government, not because of a breach in the physical structure of the Great Wall! This traitor opened the gates and let in the Manchurians who promptly set up the final dynasty in Chinese history, the Qing Dynasty, which lasted from 1644 until China became a Republic in 1912.
Like the Colosseum, countless men died at this Wonder, but most of the Great Wall’s deaths were accidental during construction, rather than deliberate deaths for sport that took place in the Colosseum.
My perspective:
There is an urban myth that you can see the Great Wall of China from space. It’s just not true if you think about it logically, though the myth persists even today. Though the Great Wall is the longest manmade object ever built (4000 miles), it is only 30 feet wide at its thickest point. To see it from the moon is equivalent to seeing a hair from two miles away. In October 2003, the first Chinese astronaut, Yang Liwei, was launched into space. As would be expected, he looked for the Great Wall and couldn’t see it, which he reported upon his return to earth.
Parts of the Great Wall are within striking distance of Beijing. The closest would be the portion at Badaling, about an hour outside the capital city. Badaling is also the most fully-restored section of the Wall. That being said, don’t go there. It is overrun with tourists and souvenir hawkers (just like Chichen Itza), and you can hardly move on the Wall due to the crowds. The only advantage to Badaling is that, along the way, you can stop by the Tomb of the Ming Emperors which is somewhat interesting. Instead, I recommend Mutianyu, only slightly farther than Badaling, but with less of a tourist frenzy. After taking a cable car up to the top and hiking around, you can ride a “bobsled” down the hillside which is kind of fun, and a great way to descend after an exhausting hike around the steep inclines of the Wall. Or if you really have some time, hire a taxi to take you to Jinshanling, hike to Simatai (which will take you several hours), and have the taxi pick you up on the other side. That stretch of the Great Wall has many broken parts but has the fewest tourists and is left the most untouched, thus giving you the most “authentic” experience (the basic rule of thumb is, the further you get from Beijing, the better).
What’s truly amazing about the Great Wall is that it weaves its way not across flat ground, but mostly mountainous terrain. It is truly a sight seeing it stretch off into the distance, undulating like a serpent.
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