The Great Wall of China is Chinese symbol to self and to the world. It is represented on bank notes, used on automobiles and wines, mentioned in the nation anthem, even the great Chairman Mao once stated “ you are not a good Han (Chinese) if you have not been to the Great Wall.” When you study Chinese in Beijing, there is no excuse for you not to see one of the man-made wonders of the world.
From East to West, the wall stretches about 6,000km, or roughly the distance between New York to L.A.
From Shanhaiguan on the Yellow Sea to the Gobi Desert's Jiayuguan this fortress was considered the last outpost of civilization before one reached the Mongols to the North.
When you study Chinese in Beijing, you will learn that construction of the wall began in the Qin dynasty (221-207BC) after China was united under one flag. The wall was not constructed all at once however, as following dynasties expanded and repaired this “lengthy beast.”It was during the Ming dynasty when the wall started to look as we recognize it today. During this period bricks and stone was used to expand and support previous construction. It was also during this period that the wall received its most attention on expansion. It is estimated that over one million workers died during the walls construction; hence the wall acquired a nickname “the longest graveyard in the world.” These workers were either forced labours or convicts. When you study Chinese in Beijing, you will learn more about the construction of the Great Wall in class.
The purpose behind the construction of the Great Wall was to help prevent the continuous barbarian raids from the north. Ironically as you study Chinese in Beijing, you will learn that the wall was of little effect as the human elements responsible for its construction, were responsible for its lack of use.
Both the Mongols who established the Yuan dynasty and the Manchus who established the Qing dynasty tricked and bribed their way around the wall and successfully invaded China.
Today there are areas which have been totally renovated and which attract tourists both from abroad and from within. Other areas have been left to the elements of time, crumbling and difficult to get to.
Being such a heavily visited tourist attraction there are numerous ways to get the Great Wall. Tourist buses, taxis, and private tour buses are usually the most convenient way to arrive. Information on this can be found at a hotel if you are visiting, if you currently study Chinese in Beijing, Global Language will help arrange this for you, or simply search on the internet for affordable transportation. If you decide to simply jump in a taxi to the Great Wall, be sure to agree on a price with the taxi driver before you go. Below is a list of three areas on the Great Wall worth visiting.
Badaling is one of the most renovated parts of the wall, and probably the easiest part of the wall to reach from Beijing. It is this section of the wall where international world leaders are taken. It is here where you can also step into the Great Wall Museum.
Mutianyu, like Badaling, offers cable cars and rides to reach the top of the wall. The view here is stunning, maybe even slightly better that at Badaling.
Simatai is a more difficult part of the wall to reach however it offers the best view of all. The wall runs along sheer cliffs that plunge hundreds of metres down mountainsides. Like Badaling and Mutianyu, Simatai has a cable car with can take you to the highest point on the wall.
When you study Chinese in Beijing, expect that you will be taken on a trip to see the Great Wall.