The 21st century has been called “the century of Asia,” and China is leading the way for the emerging Asian powerhouses today. Indeed, the economic clout that China is already wielding in the international marketplace, together with those of Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and others are reshaping the global economy and all signs indicate these trends will continue into the foreseeable future. Although all of the countries of Asia have a rich, proud, lengthy and colorful history, China stands out for one reason in particular: its Great Wall. Despite its antiquity, the Great Wall of China remains a powerful influence on modern Chinese thought and culture, as well as providing a valuable destination of tourists from all over the world who want to experience this defining aspect of China for themselves. Taken together, these issues suggest that the Great Wall of China warrants further analysis to identify these effects and what they mean for the Western world as well as the people of Asia in general and the Chinese people in particular. This paper provides a review of the relevant literature to identify the historical effects of the Great Wall of China, followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.
When most people think of the Great Wall of China, it is largely limited to one of just a few iconic views that are routinely presented to the Western world by the mainstream press. One such view, illustrated in Figure 1, hardly does the Great Wall justice, though, for a number of important reasons that are discussed further below.
Figure 1. Representative iconic view of the Great Wall of China
This neat and tidy segment of the Great Wall with its perfect stone castellation, however, is not representative of its entire massive span. Literally wrested from the materials including the earth itself that were available in the far-flung regions that it crossed, the Great Wall began to take shape around 2,400 years ago (Silverberg 25). In this regard, Silverberg (1965) reports that, “By 300 B. C., the general outlines of what would eventually be the Great Wall of China were beginning to take shape” (25). This account is consistent with the description provided by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNECSO) which reports, “In c. 220 B.C., under Qin Shi Huang, sections of earlier fortifications were joined together to form a united defense system against invasions from the north. Construction continued up to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), when the Great Wall became the world's largest military structure. Its historic and strategic importance is matched only by its architectural significance” (Brief Description 1).
The popular explanation in the West for the enormous amount of time, effort, resources involved, as well as the enormous toll in humans lives that were lost in the construction of the Great Wall involves the need to protect the...