It's more than 2,000 years old, but the Great Wall of China remains one of the great wonders of the world, an engineering feat rarely matched in the 22 centuries since its construction began. Stretching 4,500 miles, from the mountains of Korea to the Gobi Desert, it was first built to protect an ancient Chinese empire from marauding tribes from the north. But it evolved into something far greater - a boon to trade and prosperity and ultimately a symbol of Chinese ingenuity and will.
The Great Wall started as earth works thrown up for protection by different States. The individual sections weren't connected until the Qin dynasty (221-206 B.C.). Qin Shihuangdi, First Emperor of Qin began conscripting peasants, enemies, and anyone else who wasn't tied to the land to go to work on the wall. He garrisoned armies at the Wall to stand guard over the workers as well as to defend the northern boundaries. The tradition lasted for centuries. Each dynasty added to the height, breadth, length, and elaborated the design mostly through forced labor.
It was during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) that the Wall took on its present form. The brick and granite work was enlarged and sophisticated designs were added. The watch towers were redesigned and modern canon were mounted in strategic areas. The Portuguese had found a ready market for guns and canon in China, one of the few items of trade that China didn't already have in abundance. The Ming Emperors, having overthrown the Hun dominance and expelled their Mongol rulers of the North devoted large portions of available material and manpower to making sure that they didn't return.
The well-preserved sections of the Great Wall in Beijing are China's most famous tourist site. These sections are mainly the remains from the Ming Dynasty, an era of tremendous construction. The wall runs across the northern part of Beijing for over six hundred kilometers with various passes and towers. The mainly sections include Badaling, Simatai, Jinshanling, Mutianyu, Gubeikou, Huanghuacheng and Jiankou.
The truth is, though, that the Great Wall is actually a series of walls built and rebuilt by different dynasties over 1,000 years. And while they often served the same purpose, these walls reflected the worlds - both natural and cultural, in which they were erected. For all its seeming timelessness, the Great Wall is an emblem of China's evolution.