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Introducing The Great Wall

He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man.

Mao Zedong

China’s greatest engineering triumph and must-see sight, the Great Wall (万里长城; Wànlǐ Chángchéng) wriggles haphazardly from its scattered Manchurian remains in Liáoníng province to wind-scoured rubble in the Gobi desert and faint traces in the unforgiving sands of Xīnjiāng.

The most renowned and robust examples undulate majestically over the peaks and hills of Běijīng municipality – and these are the sections we focus on in this chapter – but the Great Wall can be realistically visited in many north China provinces. See the relevant regional chapters for details. It is mistakenly assumed that the wall is one continuous entity; in reality, the edifice exists in chunks interspersed with natural defences (such as precipitous mountains) that had no need for further bastions.