Marking the beginning of the third millennium, The Great Wall of China was declared to be one of ‘The New Wonders of The World.’
What was the rational for that I wondered. The Great Wall is so ancient having been ordered to be built during the 200’s BC by Emperor Qin Shi Hung to prevent the barbarian nomads from entering the Chinese Empire. Or is it that it is still very much in existence today? A sign that remains a powerful symbol of the countries enduring strength. A popular claim is said that it is the only manmade structure visible from the moon. However, this is very unlikely. It is more likely to be a very large river or canal that can be seen.
When visiting the best known section of the Great Wall-Badaling some 43 miles or 70 kms northwest of Beijing you get your first glimpse of the wall snaking up the mountain as your vehicle rounds the bends in the road. This section was rebuilt in the late 1950s, and attracts thousands of national and foreign tourists every day. At the weekends the mass of people are wall to wall.
Although the Chinese make the most of the tourists visiting, by providing the usual souvinier shops and working artisans in the buildings you have to pass in order to climb the wall. The wall in itself is very dramatic and impressive. Apparently for quite a sum of money you can be provided with gear to camp out overnight in one of the square turrets. I cannot imagine doing that myself, but I guess it turns some people on, and to be able to say they have actually done it. I would find it incredibly creepy. We did indulge ourselves and had a shiny grey slate picture of the wall inscribed with our names and our wedding anniversary date as it was that month.
When you get to the wall you have two options. The climb to the right is less difficult but still a challenge. The climb to the left is considerably more of a challenge. The photos above shows the two options.
As you begin to climb you look in awe at the rolling majestic mountains on which the wall is built snaking off into the distance. In some parts the walls were built parallel to each other as extra defences. Apparently the wall was not a great deterrent in keeping people out, but was more of a psychological deterrent . It is one of the most extensive construction projects ever completed. A massive army of soldiers, convicts and common workers were used as the workforce. As many as 400,000 people died during the walls construction. Many of these workers were buried within the wall itself and the wall became their tombs.
We climbed the left side of the wall, along seven sections of wall and eight square turrets. A festive atmosphere was in the air as both the Chinese people and tourists happily mingled as they negotiated the climb.
The wall had a very steep incline…sometimes steps…sometimes a very high camber. Thankfully there was a railing and it could be used to haul yourself up over the difficult parts. The next day I realized that was somewhat foolish as I had muscles I did not know existed groaning in agony. Going down was just as difficult as going up. Often the way, as one is careful not to fall.
There was one section of steps that were bypassed to the right, that were in unusable condition to show the condition of the wall before it was repaired.
Unfortunately, as in every culture there was graffiti etched into the walls. Too bad, as for me it has become somewhat of a sacred place to visit when I think of all the workers who lost their lives, and have no records of their actual burial place somewhere within the wall. One wonders what if anything their families were told, or if their loved ones just never returned and they were left to wonder.
Part of our group was an Australian teacher who was asked by local school children to help with a school project. The teacher and the children enjoyed their interaction and took photos together. It was special to watch.
Today,the Great Wall is generally recognized as one of the most impressive archaetectural feats in history. UNESCO in 1987, designated the Great Wall as a World Heritage site.
It is sad that the majority of the wall will be left to rack and ruin. It will gradually crumble over the years. Succumbing to the elements as it hauntingly snakes it way across those seemingly endless mountains off into the clouds and mists. No longer accessible.