Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Great Wall of China

No visit to China would be complete without a glimpse of the Great Wall, and we were able to visit a section of the Wall just north of Beijing. Here the Wall is in quite good repair, and the difficult terrain gives some idea of the immense task that would have been involved in its construction. Wikipedia says that the Wall's construction may have commenced about the 5th century BC, and that it stretches for more than 6400 kilometres.

At its peak, it was guarded by more than 1 million soldiers, and during its construction around 2 million workers died. Wikipedia also puts to rest the urban myth that the Great Wall is the only man-made construction visible from the moon, saying that it is difficult to see even from a low orbit of the Earth.

The section that we visited was quite wide, but very steep. On the day we were there, at the end of winter, there was an extremely cold wind that forced the temperature down to around -25 degrees Celsius. All the tourists were rugged up to combat the severe cold, but the hardy locals seemed to be impervious to it. In the towers, the soldiers would have been able to build fires to warm themselves. I can only imagine the hardship that must have been endured by those workers who built the Wall.

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