The Great Wall of China is an impressive outline of walls commissioned during the Ming Dynasty in northern China as a fortress to wade of invasion by other communities. The Ming dynasty constructed the wall measuring 5,500 miles long. The first walls were built around 7th century CE. The scale of the wall is so big that construction was carried out from east to west by different dynasties each building walls culminating collectively to the wall as it is today. As a result, the materials used to build the Great Wall vary from one section of the wall to the next.
Stamped Earth and Gravel
The earliest walls served the basic function of defense against minor weapons such as swords and spears and as such construction employed stamped earth and gravel on board frames. During this time, sections of the wall were built depending on the area the wall was being built. In the drier regions of Gansu Province, mud bricks dried in the sun were used. In the desert, there is evidence of reeds incorporated with sand in layers.
Rammed Earth and Wood
In the later years, the complexity of materials increased, particularly during the Qin dynasty which sought to expand and in the process, new walls were erected by use of rammed earth and wood. These were local materials and therefore easy to source and use.
Bricks were used during the Tang dynasty and they were used alongside other materials rather than solely because they were expensive to produce for large-scale construction. However, the bricks were easier to use compared to stones since they were light. Passes used bricks then mud was applied to the body of the wall. However, during the Ming dynasty which built a larger portion of the wall the techniques of brick production improved and thus more of the wall was constructed using bricks reinforced with mortar made from lime. This resulted in more durable parts of the greater wall effectively protecting the people from harsh weather and more sophisticated weapons including firearms used by nomad groups on the other side of the wall.
While stones were much harder to work with compared to other materials used, they were by far the most durable. The builders of the wall used as much locally available materials as was possible, so in the mountains where the stone was abundant, they used stone which was cut into rectangular blocks. These were used to construct foundations and gateways to the walls.
Importance of the Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is regarded as one of the most defiant feats of architecture anywhere in the world. It is listed among the Seven Wonders of the World and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It holds a special place for the people of China since the process of its construction represents the way of life of ancient China; the wall was a collective effort by the dynasties that have existed through time including Ming, Song, Qin, and the Tao dynasties.
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