World traveller, avid reader, lover of all cultures, loves language, loves working. 我会说中文
The Great Wall of China might be synonymous with Coke as one of the most recognised brands in the world. And yes, I do mean “brand” because tourist attractions to the wall are businesses unto themselves. But just because it’s a major hub for crowds of tourists (and money-making) doesn’t mean you should cross if off your #localsknow list. After all, there are many sites around the world that you simply must visit because they’re too iconic not to. And the Great Wall is certainly one of them. Besides the whole “you have to” argument, here, my top four reasons for visiting the wall.
It’s one of the 7 wonders of the world
Nope, we’re not talking about the wonders you learnt about once upon a time with the Garden of Babylon and statue of Zeus. There are also the “New 7 Wonders of the World” and despite not being “new” at all, the Great Wall is on the list.
(For a bit of background in case you missed it, the New 7 Wonders was an initiative back in 2000 to determine a new collection of seven wonders, from a list of 200 existing monuments. The other named wonders besides the Great Wall were Petra in Jordan, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, Machu Picchu in Peru, Chichen Itza in Mexico, the Colosseum in Rome, and the Taj Mahal in India. There is also an honourary candidate, the Pyramids Of Giza which was put on the list after outrage from the Egyptians. Whoops. So I guess these are the 8 wonders of the world, but that’s hardly the point.)
Needless to say, the 7 Wonders of the World are defined as the world’s most spectacular structures ever built. If you are in China, it’s an obvious destination for you.
Not to mention the convenience. Well lucky for you, there are sections of the Great Wall in Beijing that are about 370 miles in total. Not to mention, other massive sections of the wall is only an hour and a half away.
It’s not just one wall
Surprise! The Great Wall is actually a number of different sections of walls that have been built throughout the ages. There were a number of different walls built in China to repel invaders from the north and to protect one state from the other during the Warring States period.
So even if you don’t plan on going to Beijing (or if you do plan on going to Beijing but just want to see more of the countryside), there are a multitude of other places where you can see the Great Wall, such as Jiayuguan, Jinshaling, Badaling, Mutianyu, Simatai, and Dandong.
The scenery is amazing
Most of the sections of the wall are located in the mountains of China, which will give you an insanely cool glimpse to the beauty of the northern part of the country. Plus, did I mention it is almost awe-inspiring to be up on the wall, looking out on both China and Mongolia? Yep, pretty spectacular.
It holds so much of China’s history
China, much like medieval Europe, has a fairly violent history. In fact, there are dozens of dynasties throughout the ages and none of them seceded power to the next in a peaceful way. The Great Wall is a testament to this.
It was originally built in sections to protect each individual state from another during the Warring States period but was subsequently divided then combined into one during the Qin Dynasty to prevent future uprisings. After that, sections were also built during the Ming Dynasty to repel invading Mongols from the north until they were eventually overthrown by the Manchu.
My point is this: The Great Wall represents both the fortitude of China throughout the ages and yet the divide it has had among its people. It really wasn’t until the Chinese Civil War when the CPC overthrew the ROC and established the People’s Republic of China that you see one group that is unanimously united under one banner (and even then, plenty of Chinese are not on board with Communism either).
Through its hundreds of separate wall sections built by different dynasties throughout the ages, the Great Wall symbolises China’s division among its ancient people, as well as their resilience to keep building even when they were struck down. When you’re on the Great Wall, remember this as you look out over Northern China. So much history is embedded in the stone and it is a testament to not only the capabilities of the Chinese people, but also the capabilities of the human race.
A version of this article originally appeared on zhongwencentral.com and has been reproduced with permission.
No visit to Beijing is complete without walking along the legendary Great Wall of China, so escape the busy city streets with us and experience one of the Great Wonders. We promise you won’t regret it! Unlike other Great Wall tours in Beijing, we focus on giving you an awesome, authentic small group experience.