The Great Wall of China began as a series of fortifications to ward off invaders from the north. The first parts of the wall date back to the 7th century before the Common Era. These walls, built by a number of small kingdoms, were finally joined by China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi whose Qin Dynasty dates from 221 BCE. Qin unified China and instituted standards for road width, for currency, and for language, uniting the disparate kingdoms.
Over the centuries, portions of these walls have fallen into disrepair and much of the wall that remains was constructed during the time of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Recent investigation has shown that the wall is actually 1,586 miles longer than previously thought. It is 8,850km (5,500 miles) long.
A visit to the Great Wall, of course, only provides the experience of a small part of it. One of the sections that is visited by tourists is just outside of Beijing.
Even when first viewed, it is an amazing structure. It became all the more amazing as we came to know it at closer range. The section of the wall that we arrived at was even with the parking lot. However, to the second tower, there were approximately 1200 steps. Even for those who are fit, the combination of the heat in the summer and the very steep uneven steps presents a challenge for someone who wants to climb to the top tower.
Look at these steps!
My husband has one foot on one step and the other on the next one! At this section of the wall, one is literally crawling up the steps! This section is across a bridge from where most of the tourists walk. Aside from the problem with the height of the steps, they are not uniform in height, so if you aren’t careful, it’s easy to fall. Just look at the view downward on the tourist area of this section.
But look at the view one gets when climbing!
In the summer of 2007, I was lucky enough to be able to take my granddaughter, Hadas, to Beijing with me. One of the more memorable days was the day we went to the Great Wall.
Hadas made it to the top of the 1200 steps. You can see her peeking out from the roof.
She did a lot better than I did! On that trip, for some reason, I was huffing and puffing my way up the steps, but felt fine coming down– until I heard someone ask me “Do you know what your name is?” I didn’t get why someone was asking me this, but only later realized I had probably hyperventilated and was actually starting to pass out! In a couple of minutes I was fine, but I am certain that Hadas remembers the day with just a little bit of fear mixed in.
Recommendation: Don’t rush up the Great Wall. It’s been there for thousands of years. It will still be there ten minutes later.