From Shanhaiguan, northeast of Qinhuangdao City, Hebei Province in the east coast, the Great Wall rises and falls with the contours of the mountains westward, crossing the provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions of Liaoning, Hebei, Tianjin, Beijing, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Ningxia and Gansu for 6,700 kilometers, to end at Jiayuguan, southwest of Jiayuguan City in Gansu Province.
The construction of the wall began during the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BC) and Warring States period (475-221 BC) during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. Ducal states at that time built walls to defend their own territories. After the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty crushed all rival states, he founded the first centralized and unified dynasty in Chinese history. To consolidate the country and ward off invasion by ethnic minority tribes in the north, he had the walls linked and extended, giving rise to the 5,000-kilometer-long Qin Great Wall. Later dynasties from Han (206 BC – AD 220) to Ming (1368-1644) kept building and improving the wall, extending it more than 1,000 kilometers to today's scale.
The Great Wall comprises walls, passes, watchtowers, castles and fortresses. The walls are made of large stone strips. From east to west, the sections at Shanhaiguan, Jinshanling, Mutianyu, Badaling and Jiayuguan have become tourist attractions.
The Great Wall we see today mostly dates back to the Ming Dynasty. The best-preserved and most imposing section is at Badaling in Beijing. The section, located outside the Juyongguan Pass, is made of large blue bricks and has an average height of 7.8 meters. Five to six horses can be ridden abreast along it. At regular intervals there is an arched door leading to the top of the wall. The walls are covered with many lookout holes, window embrasures and castellated crenels. Beacon towers were also built at fixed intervals for passing on military information. All these indicate the important role of the Great Wall in military defense.
As one of the most magnificent ancient defense works, the Great Wall is known as one of the wonders of the world. All tourists now know the saying, "You are not a real person until you have climbed the Great Wall."
The Great Wall was put on the world cultural heritage list in 1987.
Badaling Great Wall Tel: 86-10-69121383
Juyongguan Great Wall Tel: 86-10-69771665
Mutianyu Great Wall Tel: 86-10-61626894
Jinshanling Great Wall Tel: 86-314-8838378
Shanghaiguan Great Wall Tel: 86-335-5051957
Laolongtou Great Wall Tel: 86-335-5152996
(China.org.cn September 12, 2003)