by Melinda Allman
What's Cool: The Great Wall could stretch from Florida to the North Pole.
China's Great Wall, stretching more than 4,500 miles (7,300 km) across the northern Chinese countryside, was built originally as a fortification to protect Chinese lands from invasion and to keep the nation's people from leaving the empire. In the centuries since, however, it has become both a symbol of tyranny - thousands of slaves were sacrificed during the building process-and a tourist attraction, drawing thousands of visitors each year.
Construction of the wall began in the seventh century B.C. and additions we added and sections rebuilt until the 16th century A.D. It stretches from east to west from Shan-hai Pass near Po Hai (Gulf of Chihli) to Chia-yü Pass (in the modern Kansu province).
Large sections of the wall are now in ruins or have disappeared, but there are good viewing points just a short drive from Beijing. At the Mutianyu section, visitors can take a cable car to get a better view of the wall.
Some visitors choose to walk part of the wall, while others simply marvel at its ingenuity. In a time when there were no bulldozers, cranes or flatbed trucks, the Chinese transported tons of brick and granite rock to the countryside to build the wall that would protect them from the onslaught of invaders (most notably the Mongols). Many tour companies offer tours to China and the Great Wall, including the Imperial Tour Company, which treats travelers to a candlelit dinner on the Great Wall itself.
2004 Travel Channel and Travelchannel.com
Copyright © 2004 Discovery Communications Inc.