Great Wall of China, China
GPS: 40.433228223468, 116.57137804904
The Great Wall of China is the largest man-made fortification ever built in terms of length, mass and surface area. It embodies the military power of Imperial China. This extraordinary defence system was erected from the 3rd century BC by Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Qin dynasty. At the beginning of the unification of the Chinese empire, the sovereign entrusted the responsibility of the construction site to his general and military architect, Meng Tian. The foundations of the Great Wall China rest on the first defensive lines 5,000 kilometres long. They mark the northern border of the country against the nomadic peoples from the Mongolian Steppe (including the Xiongnu).
To protect themselves against external invasions, the dynasties that succeeded each other at the head of the empire continued this considerable construction project and improved the techniques. These were developed in particular during the reign of the third Emperor of the Ming dynasty, Yongle Emperor, at the beginning of the 15th century. The fortifications of the Great Wall China were enlarged, solidified and raised to make them indestructible and impassable. They were equipped with bastions, watchtowers and fortified outposts to accommodate garrisons of soldiers responsible for keeping a permanent watch on the area and warning the capital in case of an attack. The extension of the Great Wall of China continued to the north and west of Beijing until the 17th century, stretching from the Gobi Desert to the Yellow Sea. In the end, the wall stretches over 21,000 kilometres in length. It traverses inhospitable terrain and covers a total of 15 Chinese provinces. This military structure, of extraordinary dimensions, also serves to secure the transport of goods and protect parts of the Silk Road.
The Great Wall China has been destroyed several times over the centuries by the Mongols (including Genghis Khan and his troops who managed to bypass it in the 13th century) and the Manchus in the 17th century (who brought the Qing dynasty to power). Internal events such as political unrest, civil wars and popular revolts affected successive empires, but the fortification system was rebuilt in various places until its completion. Made of earth, wood, stone, cement, and then standardized brick, the singular architecture of the Great Wall of China is revealed to the public from Shanhai Pass (Shanhaiguan) in its eastern part to Jiayu Pass (Jiayuguan City) in its western end. Its imposing walls are dotted with fortresses and follow a zigzag silhouette of the mountainous terrain. A symbol of Chinese civilisation, the Great Wall China winds its way through varied and spectacular landscapes along the border with Mongolia: mountain passes and grasslands, deserts and rivers, cliffs and forests as far as the eye can see.