The Great Wall of China

BY BEN HABIB.

From 2002 to 2005 I had the profound pleasure of visiting various sections of the Great Wall of China.  The Great Wall is made up of a series of earthen and stone fortifications built from the 5th century BC until the 16th century AD to protect the Han Chinese heartland from incursion by the Khitan, Jurchen and Manchu nomad peoples of the Mongolian steppe.  The Han Chinese long considered the steppe nomads as ‘barbarians’, inferior to the civilised Han people.  Indeed the wall could be considered as the world’s greatest monument to xenophobia, and a failed one at that.  The wall was never completely effective in preventing marauding raids by the northern tribes.  The Ming dynasty was even toppled my invading Manchus when disgruntled border guards flung open the gates of the wall in 1644, allowing the invaders free passage into the Ming kingdom.

It would be wrong however to characterise the Great Wall in such a negative light.  While not actually visible from space as the urban myth suggests, the Great Wall is nonetheless a breathtaking piece of architecture that stretches over six thousand kilometres from Bohai Gulf in the east to Lop Nur in the Xinjiang Autonomous Prefecture in western China.

I visited the wall at three sites: the ‘wild wall’ in Hebei Province at Jinshanling and Simatai, approximately three hours drive north of Beijing; Mutianyu, closer to the capital within the Beijing Municipality; and the Hushan wall near Dandong in Liaoning Province, also known as ‘Tiger Mountain’.   On each visit, I was captivated by the obvious beauty and the historical significance of this wonder of the world.  It is the sense of history that elevates the Great Wall from an impressive fence to a grand monument.

If you, the reader, have visited the Great Wall, we would love to hear the story of your experience here at Our Voice: Politics Albury-Wodonga.  If you have a Great Wall story to share, please leave a comment with this posting.

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Dr. Benjamin Habib is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at La Trobe University, Albury-Wodonga. Ben’s research project projects include North Korea’s motivations for nuclear proliferation, East Asian security, international politics of climate change, and methodologies for undergraduate teaching. He also teaches Australian politics.  Ben undertook his PhD candidature at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, and has worked previously the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship.  He has spent time teaching English in Dandong, China, and has also studied at Keimyung University in Daegu, South Korea.

Ben welcomes constructive feedback.  Please comment below, or contact Ben at b.habib@latrobe.edu.au.

The views in this story are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Our Voice: Politics Albury-Wodonga.

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