Thursday, July 4, 2013

You can't visit China without visiting the wall...

So one of the sites that I most looked forward to as I prepared to travel to China, was the Great Wall of China. I guess I was not alone in this desire because this is what I first saw on the wall.
 The Great Wall is a series of earthen ramparts with a unifying wall that was completed somewhere about 221-210 B.C. Yes, it's really that old. I don't know why I thought I would get a private viewing but I couldn't imagine having to share it with so many people. It was a little unnerving.
After riding a tram from Bandaling to get to a less populated place, it was really shocking to rub shoulders, elbows, knees and hips with so many people I wasn't related to.
 With unscalable mountains on either side of the wall it was created to provide defense to the Chinese nation. It proved ineffective in the 13th century when it was breached by the Mongols. I admit, I'm not very good at Chinese history but it's difficult to imagine the Wall not even being in China, but Mongolia during the 13th century.
The Mongols were no fans of the wall and were instrumental in it's destruction. Many areas of the wall are crumbling ruin. The area I visited had been restored in the 1950's and 1980's.
The Great Wall served as early internet. It was a means of communication with each rampart watching for messages from either side. They used smoke, flares, drums and bells. Troops could rapidly move across the country moving from one tower to the next.  The towers provided living quarters and storerooms for provisions.
One thing I never quite got used to is how often my picture was taken by random Chinese people. My blond blue eyed daughter had warned me but until you are spied on, stalked and stared at like a bug in a jar, you don't really get it. If they were kind enough to request me in their picture I smiled, but if they put their cell phones on their shoulder and walked past, I would turn away. My daughter after experiencing this for five months, started making scary faces.
 Here's the team I traveled with. A great bunch of dental professionals and even better people.

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