By: Brian Sullivan
In November, while in China to adopt our son Finn, my family had the distinct pleasure of visiting the Great Wall of China. To quote my wife, afor many reasons that was a pinch me momenta. The magnitude of the wall, the surrounding scenery and the knowledge of what was required to build this massive structure more than 2,000 years ago was absolutely awe inspiring. Below is a little history of the Wall, as a self proclaimed geek I spent most of my time climbing the wall looking at the steps and over the side rather than the beautiful surroundings. Itas a good thing my wife took plenty of photos. I have also shamelessly slipped in 2 photos of my tribe.
The majestic Great Wall of China is considered one of the most appealing attractions in the world, not only due to its historic significance, but because it is an awe-inspiring feat of ancient defensive architecture. More than 2,300 years old, it was built by different dynasties across the historical northern borders of China to protect their territorial borders against the raids and invasions of various nomadic groups.
Stretching approximately 13,170 miles from east to west, the Great Wall of China is really a military defense system that incorporates watchtowers, fortresses, command posts, beacon towers, etc. The wall winds up and down across deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus, and depending on the local topography, various materials were used in its construction. Rock blocks were carved out of the mountains and stuffed with soil and lime. In the plateau areas, the wall is made of rammed soil, stones and wood. In desert locations where building materials were scarce, the wall is made of reeds, willow branches, small pieces of stone, and dirt that is rammed between rough wood tied together by woven mats.
During the Ming Dynasty, bricks were heavily used in many areas of the wall, as were materials such as tiles, lime, and stone. The smaller and lighter bricks were easier to work with than earth and stone. Additionally, bricks could bear more weight than rammed earth. Since stone holds under its own weight better than brick, but is more difficult to use, stones were cut in rectangular shapes and used specifically for the foundation and gateways of the wall.
Because construction machinery and transport was not available, the wall was mainly built by manpower. The labor force for building the Great Wall was comprised of soldiers guarding the frontier, forced laborers, famine refugees and banished criminals. Workers used wheelbarrows, rolling logs and winches to move materials, as well as donkeys and goats to transport lime and bricks to the mountain tops. However, most of the brick was transported by human chains that handed bricks from one set of hands to another, Building the wall was brutal work and many workers died and were interred as part of the Great Wall itself. As our guide stated, the locals often sadly say that there are more bodies than rocks in the wall.