Perchance the most marked symbol of China and its long and colorful history, the Great Wall of China actually subsists of numerous walls and citadels, many running parallel to each other. Marginally conceived by Emperor Qin Shi Huang (c. 259-210 B.C.) in the third century B.C. as a means of preventing forays from barbarian nomads into the Chinese Empire, the wall is one of the most broad construction projects ever completed. The best-known and best-preserved area of the Great Wall was built in the 14th through 17th centuries A.D., during the Ming empire (1368-1644). Though the Great Wall never definitely prevented attackers from entering China, it came to function more as a cognitive barrier between Chinese civilization and the world, and remains a powerful badge of the country’s enduring strength.
Nevertheless the beginning of the Great Wall of China can be drawned to the third century B.C., many of the citadels included in the wall date from hundreds of years earlier, when China was cleft into a number of individual kingdoms during the so-called Warring States Period. Around 220 B.C., Qin Shi Huang, the first dictator of a unified China, ordered that earlier reinforcement between states be removed and a number of existing walls along the northern border be joined into a single system that would expand for more than 10,000 li (a li is about one-third of a mile) and conserve China against attacks from the north
Development of the “Wan Li Chang Cheng,” or 10,000-Li-Long Wall, was one of the most determined building projects ever undertaken by any civilization. The popular Chinese general Meng Tian directed the project, and was said to have used a colossal army of soldiers, felons and commoners as workers. Built mostly of earth and stone, the wall covered from the China Sea port of Shanhaiguan over 3,000 miles west into Gansu province. In some strategic ranges, sections of the wall overlayed for maximum security (including the Badaling stretch, north of Beijing, that was later reestablished by the Ming empire). From a base of 15 to 50 feet, the Great Wall rose some 15-30 feet high and was covered by ramparts 12 feet or higher; guard towers were assigned at intervals along it.