Its silhouette winds along the mountains. Before my eyes, the famous Chinese wall forms a rocky white line that seems to stretch as far as the eye can see. And for a good reason. This stone dragon has its source in the sea to the east, crosses China's arid deserts, and sits on top of the mountains. Recently rebuilt in places or reduced to ruins in other sections, the Great Wall of China has a history as long as the distance it covers — nearly 20,000 kilometers.
Its construction began over 2000 years ago to protect the newly unified empire from nomadic incursions. In Border, it will also serve as an ethnic marker, distinguishing China from other northern nations. The technical feat, titanic work, nevertheless experienced centuries of abandonment before being finally rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries by the Ming dynasty.
Born in the pain of the workers who built it, the wall became one of Earth's most emblematic monuments. However, the wall twice failed to fulfill its role of protecting the empire from invasions. So what is its history?
Qin Shi Huang unites China: the Great Wall of China will be born.
We are in the 3rd century BC. China was back then a territory divided into seven powers and torn by wars. This is the so-called 'Warring States' period. After years of bloody military campaigns, the Qin kingdom gained the upper hand and succeeded in conquering all the others in 221 BC The prince of Qin had thus just united the Chinese country by force.
This conqueror then found himself at the head of an immense territory. He proclaimed himself Emperor of China titled 'Qin Shi Huang' or 'Shi Huang Di' (which means the first emperor) and founded the Qin Dynasty. As brief as it was violent, this dynasty had such a great impact on China's history that it gave its name (Qin is pronounced 'China').
This first emperor will have an extraordinary tomb built, guarded by thousands of terracotta warriors and horses (find out more about Qin Shi Huang's tomb in Xi'an — Terracotta Warriors).