As a defense against numerous nomadic groups from the Eurasian Steppe, the Great Wall of China is a network of fortifications that was erected along the historical northern frontiers of ancient Chinese states and Imperial China. The first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang (220–206 BC), later connected a few selected lengths of the walls that had been constructed as early as the 7th century BC. Little of the Qin wall survives. Later, other succeeding dynasties constructed and kept up numerous sections of border walls. The Ming dynasty (1368–1644) constructed the wall’s most well-known parts.

Beyond defense, the Great Wall served various objectives such as border management, allowing taxes to be levied on goods traveling along the Silk Road, encouraging or regulating trade, and managing immigration and emigration.

In addition to providing protection, the Great Wall served other objectives such as enforcing border laws, allowing taxes to be levied on goods traveling along the Silk Road, regulating or promoting trade, and managing immigration and emigration. The addition of watchtowers, troop barracks, garrison stations, the ability to signal with smoke or fire, and the fact that the Great Wall’s route functioned as a transportation corridor all contributed to the Great Wall’s increased defensive capabilities.

Characteristics

The Great Wall was mostly constructed out of rammed earth, stones, and timber before bricks were used. However, during the Ming, bricks and other materials like tiles, lime, and stone were extensively used in many places of the wall. Construction accelerated because bricks were faster to work with than soil or stone because of their size and weight. Additionally, bricks are more durable and can support more weight than rammed dirt. Stone is harder to utilize than brick, but it can support weight better. As a result, the wall’s base, inner and outer brims, and gateways were all built with rectangular-shaped stones. Most of the wall is lined with battlements, with defensive gaps that are roughly 23 cm (9.1 in) broad and slightly taller than 30 cm (12 in). Guards could observe the surrounding area from the parapets.

Contrary to a legend, no human bones or body parts were ever incorporated into the sticky rice mortar or any other part of the wall. Communication between the army units along the length of the Great Wall, including the ability to call reinforcements and warn garrisons of enemy movements, was of high importance. For better visibility, signal towers were erected around the wall on hilltops or other high locations. Wooden gates could be a trap for someone trying to pass through. Near the inside of the wall, barracks, stables, and armories were constructed.

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