China · The Great Wall
China’s greatest engineering triumph and must-see sight, The Great Wall (万里长城) wriggles haphazardly from its scattered Manchurian remains in Liáoníng province to wind-scoured rubble in the Gobi desert and faint traces in the unforgiving sands of Xīnjiāng.
It is the world’s longest wall and biggest ancient architecture, the official length is 21196.18 km. It is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials, generally built along an east-to-west line across the historical northern borders of China to protect the Chinese states and empires against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe.
Several walls were being built as early as the 7th century BC; these, later joined together and made bigger and stronger, are now collectively referred to as The Great Wall. Especially famous is the wall built 220–206 BC by Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Little of that wall remains. Since then, The Great Wall has on and off been rebuilt, maintained, and enhanced; the majority of the existing wall is from the Ming Dynasty.
Other purposes of The Great Wall have included border controls, allowing the imposition of duties on goods transported along the Silk Road, regulation or encouragement of trade and the control of immigration and emigration. Furthermore, the defensive characteristics of The Great Wall were enhanced by the construction of watch towers, troop barracks, garrison stations, signaling capabilities through the means of smoke or fire, and the fact that the path of the Great Wall also served as a transportation corridor.
The most renowned and robust examples of the Wall undulate majestically over the peaks and hills of Běijīng municipality, but The Great Wall can be realistically visited in many north China provinces. It is mistakenly assumed that the wall is one continuous entity; in reality, the edifice exists in chunks interspersed with natural defences (such as precipitous mountains) that had no need for further bastions.
The Great Wall was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.