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The Great Wall is located 40 miles from Beijing. The Chinese name for this wonder is Wan Li Chang Cheng meaning "the Long Wall of Ten Thousand Li." The earliest sections were built in the 5th century B.C. It was not until the unification of China in B.C. 221 that the various sections of the wall were joined together.

More than 300,000 men worked more than 10 years to complete it. The interior is made of pounded-earth, which is faced with stone walls. The stone roadway along the top is wide enough to allow five horses abreast to gallop between the battlements... thus it was used to convey soldiers, arms, and food, speedily to various parts of the northern frontier.

From the 6th to the 14th centuries, the wall was abandoned and fell into disuse, but after the Mongols attacked, the Ming Emperor decided to rebuild it in 1368. Building/restoration continued until the 16th century, but was again stopped when the Manchu armies captured China in 1644. From this time, the wall fell into ruin. Much of it has now been restored, and there are three famous parts that tours usually visit.

When you travel to The Great Wall, do wear comfortable shoes with non-slip soles. If your visit is during cool weather, wear plenty of warm clothing, because the wind that whips through the mountains is very cold. At the section where this writer visited, we had a choice of the section we wanted to climb. On one side the climb was considered "easier", and on the other side, "more difficult." It's safe to say that no parts are particularly "easy". In places the roadway has such an incline that one leans forward so much that noses almost touch the stone floor. Fortunately, the Chinese have installed iron rails to help with inclines like this. In other parts, there are steps, of uneven heights to scale.

But climb it - you must... It is one of the wonders of the world! Stop along the way and admire the scenery at the various ramparts... and catch your breath. When you reach the top tower, look out at the wall as it snakes its way across the tops of the mountains, and you'll be able to see miles of it in the distance. This is a place to reflect upon the past. To help you realize how grand this spectacle is: It's the only man-made structure that astronauts can see from outer space. When the wonder of the wall has been absorbed, it's time to begin the descent. This can be treacherous. Do hold on to the iron rails.

When you reach the bottom, and return to the area for your bus, you'll find the usual vendors. Treat yourself to a "I climbed the Great Wall" T-shirt. You deserve it.



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