The Great Wall of China

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The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is the name used to describe a series of fortifications which run from Shanhaiguan in the east, describing a slight arc to the west, ending in the Gansu province.

There are several factors which influence the appearance of this massive structure. The length of the wall in total is approximately 13,170.69 miles (21,196.18 kilometres) and it traverses a diverse range of terrains. It was also added to during different dynasties, which means that different styles of construction and building materials can be seen. In addition, the structure is exposed to physical damage through erosion, sandstorms and vandalism which means that to some extent its appearance is constantly changing.

The wall was designed as a defensive structure with its vast size, watchtowers and features including battlements characterising it as such. It begins on the coast, with sandy beaches to either side and high cliffs. A notable structure at the beginning of the wall is known as the Old Dragon's Head. It rises from below the tide-line and is built from large, narrow rectangular bricks, which are topped with battlements. This forms a rectangular section with a wide open space, where people can stand and look out to sea. If we imagine this part of the wall resembling a dragon's head, this would be the snout. Directly behind this is a higher tower made from much smaller bricks. Thinking again of the dragon, this would be the upper part of the dragon's head. It has one rectangular door opening on each side and three very small arch top openings to the sides. This tower is again topped with battlements. It has a flat roof, with another smaller stone building on top. This fills around half the space of the tower rooftop and itself has a roof shaped like an inverted V. Behind this, the wall begins its path to the west. At this point, the wall is wide enough for at least six people to stand side by side. It has battlements on both sides and begins to ascend with sections of steps and flat segments.

The wall passes through mountain ranges and countryside. In general it maintains a generous width, enough for many people to walk along at the same time. Square shaped guard towers can be seen at higher points, giving the best possible views to the surrounding land. Other sections have steep flights of stairs, taking those walking along the wall to a higher or lower level.