Ask a random sampling of people about their bucket list destinations, and virtually all of them will mention the Great Wall of China, probably near or at the top.
“He Who Has Never Been to the Great Wall Is Not a True Man”
I’m no exception. My two week trip to China was prompted by my desire to see this staggering engineering marvel which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. And apparently, I’m in good company.
A quote from Mao Zadong says “不到长城非好汉” which means “not arrive Great Wall, not good man” and has been accepted as Chinese folklore.
First, a little history…
Contrary to popular belief, the Great Wall is not one continuous 13,000-mile structure, but a series of fortifications and other barriers such as mountains, trenches, and rivers. The materials used in construction include stones, compacted earth, lime, and brick and rambles east-to-west, originally to protect the country from nomadic assailants.
Rudimentary erection of the wall began as early as 7th century BC and was added to century-by-century. The first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, added a portion of the wall in 220-206 BC, but most of what exists now was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Legend has it that the wall was built as a serpentine structure, not because of terrain or military priority, but because Chinese mythology says that demons can only travel in a straight line!
Entering at Badaling
With only a day to spend at the Great Wall, we headed to the Badaling, a 2.3-mile section about 50 miles from Beijing and the most magnificent section. This section was constructed by General Qi Jiguang and completed in 1515 during the Ming Dynasty. This section of the wall has been restored and it was the first section to be open to tourists in 1957. The highest point of Badaling is 3,330 feet above sea level, with spectacular 360-degree views.
For the rest of the Badaling Great Wall Tour, read When in China, Take a Left at the Great Wall in the Huffington Post.
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