"He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man." - Mao Zedong
The Great Wall of China, or Wànli Chángchéng (literally "The long wall of 10,000 Li"; Li being a Chinese unit of distance equal to around 500 metres) was begun around 200BC during the Qin (pronounced chin) dynasty. Initially constructed separately by independent kingdoms, the individual walls were linked together under the command of Emporer Qin Shi Huang, coincidentally China's own unifier, to form an over-7,000km long barrier. The wall was built, rebuilt and repaired over a period of around two millennia (!), up until the 16th century when the then state of Mongolia was incorporated into China and repairs ceased. This part of China, north of the wall, is now known as Inner Mongolia (although it is not actually part of the Mongolia we know today).
In the early stages, during the Qin dynasty, the wall was merely comprised of compacted soil and most of these sections have since eroded away due to lack of necessity, and hence maintenance, over the subsequent centuries. When the idea of the Great Wall was revived in the 15th century by the Ming dynasty, bricks and stone were brought in for the rebirth of the wall and a much stronger and more elaborate fortification was constructed over the next 200 years; the wall we see today.
As an "impenetrable line of defence" to keep out the invading Manchurians and Mongolians (or barbarians as our guide liked to refer to them as), it never did fully serve its purpose despite being guarded by over one million soldiers at its peak, and the infamous Genghis Khan is rumoured to have said, "The strength of a wall depends on the courage of those who defend it." Apparently sentinels could be bribed. In 1644 the gates were opened by a disgruntled border general to the Manchus, who subsequently seized control of Beijing and overthrew the Ming resistance to eventually establish the Qing dynasty. A fascinating piece of history!
After some fussing about the lack of punctuality that our arranged car showed on the morning of Monday the 5th of May, we were on our way with two other awesome Aussies, Brooko and Azza, to a town called Gubeikou. Near here is a section of the Great Wall known as Jinshanling. It is a fairly undeveloped section of the wall, relatively untouched by the monster that is tourism, which makes it all the more beautiful and intriguing. From here we walked 10km atop this amazing structure amongst amazing scenery to another section known as Simatai. What an experience!
I'll let the pictures do the talking...