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The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is one of the great man-made landmarks on earth, an incredible feat of engineering begun some 2000 years ago. It stretches for about 6,500 km from the Korean mountains to the Gobi desert. The average height is 10 metres (originally the height of 5 men) & the width is 5 metres (originally 6 horses wide at the top, 8 horses wide at the bottom).

It was started during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty as small bits of defensive wall for three of the individual states to keep the northern nomadic barbarians away. Under the Qin Dynasty the independent bits of wall began to be joined making it the 'great' wall to protect the whole country from northern invasions. Over a million people eventually were sent to work on the wall during the Qin Dynasty (local people, soldiers, scholars and prisoners) and it was worked on for ten years continuously day and night using, for the most part, local construction materials. If anyone died while working, they were buried in the wall. Workers who complained or tried to run away were buried alive. During the Qin and Han Dynasties the construction was of wooden frames which were filled with earth which was then tamped tightly. The frames were removed leaving a tightly packed earthen wall. Many years later the earth was enclosed by brick and stone.

It consisted of wall interspersed with watchtowers. The soldiers lived and stored their supplies in the towers and each tower was within sight of the next. The soldiers looked out for invasions when a flag or torch was used for signalling and occasionally took part in skirmishes with the invaders. Many of the garrisons had nearby farming plots so were self-sufficient as getting supplies to the remote areas was hard.

From the Han Dynasty (200 BC) to the Ming Dynasty (17th century), it was continually extended, reconstructed and restored. It's the remnants of the Ming wall that are mainly visible today when the brick and stone work was extended and sophisticated designs added.

Over the last few centuries local people have used bricks and stone from the wall as building materials and other parts have been buried by silt. However, parts have been restored as a tourist attraction as it still holds a fascination for people and in 1987 it was made a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

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