Purpose one: writing a travelogue to describe my various trips.

Purpose two: muse.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Old Great Wall

Two features make the Great Wall of China impressive: its age and its length. It's also neat how they used natural features, but that is a corollary to the length. When you build something that is 5600 km long, incorporating terrain becomes mandatory.

I have mixed feelings about the Great Wall.

On the one hand, it is a testament to human accomplishment. It is the largest man-made structure in the world, and the only one visible from space. Its length is nearly equal to Earth's radius. It was built over a thousand year period. Its newest sections are 400 years old, not considering renovations.

The Wall also signifies Chinese freedom from Mongol rule. I don't wish oppression on anyone.

On the other hand, the Great Wall also stands as a symbol of isolationism and protectionism during the Ming dynasty, which was partially responsible for bringing China from the forefront of civilization to a backwaters relevant only for its size.

From a military perspective, the purpose of the wall must have been to stop a large, horse-based army. It seems to me that smaller raids conducted at night could not have been prevented, except with a massive guard along the entirety, which is unlikely. The wall was defensible from both sides, and has internal defensive features, so that one breach would not compromise the whole defense works.

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