Thursday, January 21, 2016

Why China? Part 3: More about the Great Wall

One of the highlights to our Beijing experience was climbing the Great Wall of China.

The Chinese used walls to protect and isolate their people and their royalty.  There are walls surrounding some towns and cities.  There are walls surrounding the Forbidden City.

The Great Wall was built to protect China from invading armies.  It is more than 4,000 miles long.  Longer than the width of the continental United States.  

The Wall is as wide as 30 feet in places, plenty wide enough to drive a car across.  It is 16 feet tall where it has not eroded.  To get to the top of the wall we climbed stairs that extended about a mile.  

The most curious thing about the stairs is that they are uneven.
Some stairs felt normal, others were short, and some were very tall.  I had to crawl over some of the taller stairs, lacking the stability on the snow and ice to negotiate such a tall step.

The walls were built to keep intruders out.  The uneven stairs helped to slow the enemy down.  

There was a railing on each side of the stairs.  One railing was crowded with the hands of many travelers.  The other side of the stairs was very icy and seemed a little treacherous.  I seldom was able to grasp the railing.  Closer to the top there was no railing.

Their was a guard house part way up the stairs and a tower at the top.  At the first guard house, I realized that I needed to shed some of my layers as I was getting too warm.  The sun had begun to warm us, and I was also generating some of my own heat from the exertion.  I left my heavy coat soon after, hanging on the railing.

We didn't see graffiti near the wall, but padlocks hung along the side of the stairs just under the railing.  On the padlocks were carved initials and names of some who wished to leave their mark.

We learned that the wall was begun in the Quin (pronounced Chin) dynasty and was added to during the Ming Dynasty at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.  Those who died while building the wall were buried within the wall.  The early builders use compacted dirt.  During the Ming Dynasty bricks were also used.
The climb was challenging for me but doable.  Reaching the top was a victory.  The view was spectacular.  We were blessed to have a clear day.  I savored the victory and enjoyed the satisfaction of completion.  

This is the hero rock.  If you have made it this far you are a hero.  I may not be a hero but I felt like one when I reached this rock.  Every once in a while, I like to do hard things.  

Linda Garner

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