Ming Dynasty Great Wall

The Great Wall of China as it exists today was built mainly in the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). It was an ambitious project and took over 100 years to complete. The walls of this period were well designed and known for their unique configuration and effective defense system. Extending from the Yalu River in Liaoning Province to the eastern bank of the Taolai River in Gansu Province, Ming's Great Wall winds its way from east to west through present Liaoning, Hebei, Tianjin, Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Ningxia and Gansu Provinces or areas.

Research has shown that Ming's emperors were busy with the construction of this Great Wall throughout their reign. After seizing political power from rulers of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368), the emperors had to battle desperate Yuan forces in the north and stop the threat of invasion from other northern ethnic tribes such as Nuzhen, Dada and Wala. To resist these outside forces and protect their citizens, every emperor of the Ming Dynasty spared no effort in building, fortifying, extending and eventually completing the construction of the wall.

Ming Dynasty Great Wall Ming Dynasty Great Wall

The design of the Ming Wall was well thought out. For example, Xuanfuzhen Great Wall in Beijing, due to its strategic position, was built in the unique style of double lines, inner and outer, to strengthen its defensive ability.

A total of six passes were built. The inner passes were Juyongguan Pass, Zijingguan Pass and Daomaguan Pass, and the outer passes were Pianguan Pass, Ningwuguan Pass and Yanmenguan Pass.

These passes controlled entries and exits into the areas and are secured by gates. Watch towers, signal towers, fortresses, and observation posts serve as additional reinforcements. The Ming Great Wall was further divided into nine zones, each controlled by a garrison, called 'zhen' in Chinese. Two more garrisons were added later, making a total of eleven garrisons of Great Wall. This ensured the security of the capital.

Following the topographies of the land through which it travels, this ancient wall looks like a long winding dragon. To get a rough idea of the size: if all its stones, bricks, and earth are used to build a city wall of 1.1 yards high and 5.5 yards wide, the total length will circle the earth more than once. Today, remnants of this huge wall stand as a witness to the sacrifices of the ancient builders and the wisdom of its designers. It is perhaps one of the greatest architectural achievements of men.

Virtual Field Trip: The Great Wall of China

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