Considered as the longest wall in the world, the Great Wall of China is an awe-inspiring feat of ancient defensive architecture. Basically built to protect the Chinese Empire from the Mongolians, Huns and other invaders, its winding path over rugged country and steep mountains takes in some great scenery. It winds up and down across grasslands, deserts, plateaus and mountains, stretching approximately 21,196 km from east to west of China and stands out as one of the most famous and iconic landmarks in the world.
What is known as the Great Wall of China is actually a series of walls and fortifications, built around many years ago. Beginning from anywhere between the seventh century BC and the fifth century BC, many small walls were erected by the six different states that would eventually become part of modern China. In 220 BC the Qin Dynasty unified the Qin state with the six other warring states and the emperor, Qin Shihuang ordered the separate pieces of the Great Wall in the northern states to be connected to provide maximum security from the troublesome Huns. Thus, the Great Wall started to take shape in its most infantile stage.
Construction of the wall, made out of several different materials including bricks, stone, grass, rock and earth, continued over subsequent centuries and was completed by the subsequent Western Han Dynasty (206 BC to 24 AD), Northern Wei Dynasty (386 to 534), Northern Qi Dynasty (550 to 577), Sui Dynasty (581-608), Liao Dynasty (916-1125) and the Jin Dynasty (265-420).However, the majority of the existing wall is from the Ming Dynasty(1368–1644), under whom the wall underwent its biggest and the most significant transformation, as they had to contend with a great number of attacks by the minority tribes.
Apart from lengthening the Wall, the Dynasty also added double and triple walls in some places to reinforce previously built structures and confuse the possible attackers. In fact, in many places the width is averaging an impressive 22 feet (6.7 m). During the Ming Dynasty, fortresses were placed intermittently along the length of the wall to store military supplies and Guard towers were also erected at the strategic points. The new addition and development of the Wall continued till the 17th century, when the invaders from Manchuria successfully infiltrated China and brought down the Ming Dynasty to give rise to the Qing Dynasty, which effectively halted the Great Wall's development for more than a whopping 2,000 years.
The Manchurians had no reason to look after the maintenance of the Great Wall and gradually, it became overgrown by wild vegetation and began to deteriorate as a result of earthquakes and continuous exposure to snow, wind and rain. Many western sections of the wall were more susceptible to erosion, as they were constructed of mud, rather than brick and stone. Battles ranging from tiffs with the Huns to high power assaults with Japan in the 1930s and the 1940s also hastened the decline of the wall. Even the locals were responsible for the deterioration of its condition, as they used it as a source of stones to rebuild houses and roads. As some sections of the Wall are prone to graffiti, the inscribed bricks were pilfered and sold in the open market. Unfortunately, some parts were also destroyed to make way to build highways.
It may sound ridiculous, but the tourism industry is also a contributing factor to the wall's pathetic condition. For years, tourists have taken pieces of bricks from the wall as souvenirs, etched names and epithets into the wall, while vendors have set up souvenir stores, cable cars, parking lots, food counters and others, within a few feet of the iconic landmark. All these factors taken together resulted a whopping 50 percent disappearance of the Great Wall, with a remaining 30 percent in ruins and a mere 20 percent classified as being in reasonable condition.
The Chinese government, until recently, was reluctant to discourage or limit tourist access to the Great Wall, as it would decrease revenue to the area. However, in 2003, the Beijing Administrative Bureau of Cultural Relics enacted regulations to protect the Beijing portion of the wall, which receives some five to six million tourists each year. Constructions of any building that can cause physical or aesthetic damage are prohibited within 1,640 feet (500 m) of the wall.
Apparently innocent activities, which include pitching a tent, gathering firewood, herding animals and setting up temporary counters to charge admission to less savvy tourists, have been declared taboo, as those activities have an adverse effect on the health of the wall. Subsequently, the Chinese government also enacted the first national law aimed at protecting the Great Wall and officially prohibited activities like removing bricks or stones from the wall, arranging and holding raves or parties on top of it, carving words into the wall or building a home too close to it. In 2006, the government instituted fines of up to $62,500 for institutions and $6,250 for individual violators for arranging or joining rave parties, driving and carving on the wall. The government has also allocated funds for the continued preservation and restoration of the monument.
Unfortunately, people in the remote areas do not understand the cultural significance of the structure