6The Great Wall at Simatai
On Friday, the Tsinghua LL.M. Program Office arranged a bus to take us to the Great Wall. We went to Simatai, which is one of the unreconstructed sections of the Wall. The Wall at Simatai is set in a steep, forested mountain range. It was built on the top of a very steep cliff, which made for marvelous views of the surrounding countryside. More impressive still were the views of the Wall snaking over the mountains in the distance. For such a massive structure, it is incomprehensively long and scales impossibly sharp, clipped peaks.
The Wall is shrouded in myth. It was built largely by conscripted Chinese men, and it’s said that one man died for every meter of wall. I can’t speak to the truth of that statement, but given the inhospitable environment and the magnitude of the project itself, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true. The Wall is also reputed to be the only man-made object visible from space. All three of my guidebooks refute this claim, although I doubt any of my guidebook’s authors have actually orbited the earth.
Having visited the Wall, it’s not hard for me to understand why such fantastic myths have sprung up. Its sheer scale is utterly astonishing, and it’s set in some of China’s harshest, most beautiful mountains. The Great Wall is truly one of the most compelling sites I’ve ever seen.