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The Great Wall of China
Each step along the Great Wall of China is like going back in time and is an exciting experience for any visitor. The longest man made stucture and with a history of more than 2000 years, the Great Wall snakes it's way over mountains, deserts, grasslands and plateaus stretching approximately 6,700 kilometres over the country. Even though some sections are in ruins and others have disappeared, the Great Wall is still one of the most popular attractions in the world due to its architectural grandeur and histrorical significance.
A series of stone and earthern fortifications, the Great Wall was built in the Spring, Autumn and Warring States Periods as a defensive fortification by the three states of Yan, Zhao and Zin. Construction began in the 5th century BC with later dynasties making many extensions and repairs. The Great Wall started as independent walls for different states when first built and it was under the Qin dynasty and Emperor Qin Shihuang, that the different parts were joined to construct a defensive barrier against attacks from the Huns. The part of the Wall constructed by this Emperor is the most famous and was built between 220 BC and 200 BC, but little remains today; it was much further north. The Great Wall was constructed with an army of manpower including soldiers, prisoners and local people using local resources for building materials and it is estimated that up to 3 million Chinese died through the centuries long project.
The Great Wall that we see today was built during the Ming Dynasty with longer lasting materials such as solid stone used for the sides and top of the Wall. The primary purpose was not to keep people out, as they could always scale the wall, but to insure that semi nomadic people on the outside could not cross or steal property. At its peak, the Ming Wall was guarded by more than one million men. The Wall starts from Shanhaiguan Pass in the east to Jiayuguan Pass in the west traversing provinces of Liaoning, Hebei, Beijing, Tianjin, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Shaanxi and Gansu.
The Great Wall has become a monument to the nation of China and the tenacity of it's people. The Wall has been incorporated into Chinese mythology and popular symbolism. One of the most beautiful of several legends is about the collapse of a section of the Great Wall caused by Meng Jiangnu, who cried bitterly over the death of her husband in the construction of the Great Wall. This legend has been spread widely through textbooks, folk songs and traditional operas and is well-known in China.