“Build the wall!”
One of the first times a politician ever issued those controversial words was when the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang decreed the creation of the Great Wall of China. The initial construction of his Wan Li Chang Cheng, or “10,000-Li-Long Wall,” began in 220 B.C.E. and the fulfillment of that edict produced one of the majestic wonders of the world, The Great Wall Of China. Today, over 2,700 years later, one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by over 300,000 men still stands as testament to mankind’s amazing achievement potential.
The oldest segments were constructed by individual kingdoms as wartime defense against invasions, but the Great Wall as we know it was eventually joined together as those kingdoms were conquered and consolidated. The colossal stone walls connect hundreds of massive watchtowers in an architectural marvel that stretches over 13,000 miles across the country’s most forbidding terrain. To put this into perspective, that is approximately four times the distance between Miami and Seattle.
Witnessing this ancient spectacle can be accomplished in a number of ways with Beijing serving as the most convenient gateway. Although cruise guests require a 3-hour transfer from the port of Tianjin to reach any of the accessible segments, it is a trip well worth the journey.
On Windstar Cruises’ Star Legend’s Japan and China Far East itinerary, the experience is a featured highlight. The excursion adventure offers guests the opportunity of visiting the more remote Mutianyu section, a far less crowded access point than some. To emphasize the height of the structure, guests take a cable chair lift up to the very top of the mountain and directly onto the wall itself.
Although the stone fortifications attract over 10 million visitors a year, there are portions of the Great Wall that are natural barriers, like rivers or high mountains. Nearly two hundred watchtowers are strategically positioned over the expanse of the Wall.
Whether arrival land or sea, no visit to China is complete without visiting this border wall on steroids!
Photos: Steve Leland