Transportation Feats of the World: Journey along the Great Wall

We’re ending GO! Magazine’s tour of the Seven Great Transportation Feats of the World with an ancient world wonder: the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall has existed since the 7th century BCE and is considered topically as one of the “New” Seven Wonders of the World.  

When talking about transportation, it’s important to remember that before modern forms of transportation existed, people often had to travel using only their own two feet. And that’s exactly how we’d travel along the Great Wall. The best known section attracts thousands of national and foreign tourists every day. Now that’s a lot of feet!

Brief history of the Great Wall

The Great Wall of China today remains “a powerful symbol of the country’s enduring strength.” Did you know that it was originally constructed as a fortification or defensive wall to protect against foreign attacks?

Despite a long and elaborate history, most of the Great Wall we know today was constructed during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Chinese culture prospered under the Ming dynasty and with it came a tremendous amount of construction, including expansion of the Great Wall and construction of other architecture like bridges, temples, and pagodas across the country.

The Great Wall sometime before 1906. Photo by Sanshichiro Yamamoto via Japan Public Domain
The Great Wall sometime before 1906.
Photo by Sanshichiro Yamamoto via Japan Public Domain

But it was the Great Wall that surfaced as “the most common emblem of China,” becoming both a physical and psychological representation of Chinese strength.

Time does have a toll though. Some sections of the Great Wall were eventually cut to build roadways and others simply deteriorated due to “centuries of neglect.” That said, in 1987, the Great Wall was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). It’s also said that the Great Wall is one of the only man-made structures you can see in low earth orbit.

The long and winding road

As it stands today, the Great Wall of China—translated as literally “the long wall”—measures some 13,000 miles in length. Well, the 13,171 mile length accounts for all parts of the Great Wall built over thousands of years of history. The best preserved portion of the wall—the Ming Great Wall—measures some 5,500 miles long.

Visitors walking the Great Wall up the mountains. Photo from Pixabay
Visitors walking the Great Wall up the mountains.
Photo from Pixabay

Feat of transportation

The most impressive feat of the Great Wall of China has been its ability to endure the test of time. Although various sections of the Great Wall have since deteriorated, as a whole, it has existed in one form or another for centuries before the Common Era.

The Great Wall’s official construction dates all the way back to the 3rd century BCE, where the then-emperor Qin Shi Huang (c. 259-210 BCE) looked to join multiple walls built hundreds of years earlier. These sections forming the foundation of the Great Wall were used defensively during wartime.

The Great Wall is also considered to be one of the most extensive construction projects in history. After the death of Qin Shi Huang and the fall of the Qin dynasty, much of it fell into disrepair. However, a number of succeeding dynasties throughout China’s history (Han, Tang, Song, Ming, Qing) made successful repairs to further extended the Great Wall.

Journey along the Great Wall

The Great Wall of China is considered to be one of the most impressive architectural feats in history, and now we can begin to understand why!

So, the real question is: Would you take a journey to China and travel along its’ Great Wall? With nearly 10 million visitors annually, you won’t be alone if you do.

References

By Hannah Postlethwait, Go! Staff Writer