The Great Wall of China is one of the most ancient constructions on Earth. Moreover, it is the longest man-made military projects in the world. Today, the Great Wall of China is the symbol of the Chinese people representing the hardworking spirit of the people. The length of the wall is 4,000 miles and it is built with stone and earthen fortifications. For more than 10 centuries, the wall has been built and rebuilt multiple times to protect the northern borders of China from attacks by the nomadic tribes.
The decision to construct the wall was made in 8th century BC during the so-called period of Warring States. By that time, three states (Qi, Yan, and Zhao) have already constructed large fortifications to protect their borders. The first walls were made of stamped earth with gravel in between. With the unification of China in 221 BC, the Qin Dynasty was established. The centralized rule was established and the ruling dynasty ordered the destruction of all walls throughout the country to prevent division. Taking into account the security concerns, the rulers urged the construction of the new wall on the northern border.
According to Man, the unique materials were used to construct the wall as it was difficult to transport large quantities of materials (21). As the result, the workers used stones from the nearby mountains. While the use of stones was chosen for convenience purposes, it contributed to the preservation of the Great Wall until the present time. The financial support was provided by the central government. Different legends exist regarding the people who worked on construction. According to Arnold, several millions of people have died building the wall and most of them were prisoners and soldiers (3). In addition, the government imposed heavy agricultural tax on peasants to support the construction of the wall financially.
For several centuries, the wall served its mission of protecting the Chinese from invasion and attacks. More than 1 million soldiers guarded the wall. When the Ming Dynasty came to power in 1449, the wall constructed by the Qin rulers was no longer effective in keeping the Mongols out of China (Lovell 9). Thus, the Mings ordered the reconstruction of the wall with the use of the stronger building materials such as bricks and stones instead of rammed earth. As the Mongol attacks occurred repeatedly, considerable resources and manpower were devoted to reinforce the walls.
Taking into account the magnificent length of the Great Wall and the impressive number of soldiers guarding it, the Chinese developed the special communication tools to call reinforcements and send warnings of the enemy movements. The signal towers were built on the high points of the wall thus allowing rapid spread of the message on long distances (Michaud 54).
The construction of the Great Wall of China was one of the most expensive military projects in the history of the world. The investment of enormous financial and human resources into the construction of the wall resulted in the effective military defense site protecting the country from unexpected and devastating attacks from the north. From one side, the construction of the wall caused the death of millions of people and the empowerment of farmers. From the other side, it made it possible for the Chinese to maintain their geographical and cultural unity. Hundreds of generation worked on the construction of the wall and today it is undoubtedly one of the most impressive miracles of the ancient world.
- Arnold, H.J.P. The Great Wall: Is It or Isn’t It? Astronomy Now Publishing, 1995.
- Lovell, Julia. The Great Wall: China against the World. 1000 BC – 2000 AD. London: Atlantic Books, 2006.
- Man, John. The Great Wall. Bantam Press, 2008
- Michaud, Roland, Sabrina Michaud and Michel Jan. The Great Wall of China. Abbeville Press, 2001.