The Great Wall, which is more than 5,000 kilometers long, has existed for 2000 years. Depending on such factors as time, location and circumstances, the image of the Wall has varied in the eyes of different people.
Different perceptions of the Great Wall
In the eyes of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang of the Qin Dynasty, under the rule of whom it started to be built, the Great Wall was a protective screen against possible invasion by the Xiongnu people, a northern nomadic tribe that used to fight on horseback. During the same era, thousands of Chinese women, through tearful eyes, saw the Great Wall as the grave of their sons, fathers, brothers and husbands that died while building it, under forced labor. In the eyes of the nomadic tribes, the Great Wall was a barrier that blocked their invasion southward. In the eyes of soldiers defending its borders, the Great Wall was more like a brother standing alongside of them to guard their own homeland. Finally, for some historian, the Great Wall appears more like a conservative barrier, separating ethnically related groups of people.
What one person sees is often what another misses. Therefore, the Great Wall is seen in completely different ways through the eyes of different people, depending on the point of view.
The heart of China
The Great Wall witnessed the rise and development of ancient civilizations, replacement (the coming and going) of various feudal dynasties; the hardship, interactions and unification of the Chinese nation. Over time the defensive and military function of the Great Wall has evolved to a symbolical representation of a powerful national spirit. In fact, the Great Wall represents the beating heart of the Chinese nation.
Starting from the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), almost every dynasty maintained, repaired and expanded the Great Wall with the aim of consolidating its rule. The construction of the Wall in the north of China facilitated the mass migration and the establishment of new prefectures and towns, and overall contributed to the economic development of the northern regions.
The strategic towns on the Great Wall served as stations for economic exchange and markets for border trade. The Great Wall guaranteed security for the traders on their route, known as the Silk Road, towards the Mediterranean coasts. It seems that the Wall would be more than 25, 000 kilometers long, if all its sections built in different historical periods were linked together. The amount of work was enormous. Millions of workers were recruited to build the Wall throughout the rule of different dynasties. The number of people that died during its construction is too large to count.