The Great Wall of China is not a single wall. These are a number of longer or shorter sections that originated from the 8th century BC until the fall of the Ming Dynasty in 1644. But what were the reasons for the construction of the largest fortification complex in human history?
The first fragments of the wall were formed before the unification of China, during a turbulent period, where individual kingdoms protected themselves from attacks by other kingdoms and nomadic tribes from the north. The first Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, during his reign in the years 221 - 210 BC, ordered to connect the individual fragments of the wall, thus creating the first unified complex.
Subsequent dynasties continued to expand the wall to varying degrees, where the greatest prosperity and current appearance of the wall originated during the Ming Dynasty between 1368 and 1644. The wall served many functions, for example, it allowed
- to defend against invaders from the north
- easily move troops in hard-to-reach terrain
- signal danger over long distances
- control the state border
- control the import and export of goods along the Silk Road
- regulate emigration and immigration of people
In 1644, the wall played its last major military role, when the Ming Dynasty General Wu Sangui opened the gates and allowed the conquerors of Manchuria to pass freely and subsequently conquer Beijing. The Ming Dynasty fell and a new Qing Dynasty emerged, reaching far beyond the borders of then-China, and the defensive function of the wall lost its purpose.