In c. 220 B.C., under Qin Shi Huang, sections of earlier fortifications were joined together to form a united defence system against invasions from the north. Construction continued up to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), when the Great Wall became the world's largest military structure. Its historic and strategic importance is matched only by its architectural significance.
The Great Wall we see today mostly dates back to the Ming Dynasty. The best-preserved and most imposing section is at Badaling in Beijing. The section, located outside the Juyongguan Pass, is made of large blue bricks and has an average height of 7.8 meters. Five to six horses can be ridden abreast along it. At regular intervals there is an arched door leading to the top of the wall. The walls are covered with many lookout holes, window embrasures and castellated crenels. Beacon towers were also built at fixed intervals for passing on military information. All these indicate the important role of the Great Wall in military defense.
From Shanhaiguan, northeast of Qinhuangdao City, Hebei Province in the east coast, the Great Wall rises and falls with the contours of the mountains westward, crossing the provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions of Liaoning, Hebei, Tianjin, Beijing, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Ningxia and Gansu for 6,700 kilometers, to end at Jiayuguan, southwest of Jiayuguan City in Gansu Province.
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