Ancient barrier brings people new horizon

Various sections of the Great Wall in Shanxi province stand as silent witnesses to a history of more than two millennia, although they are not as complete as they were in their former glory days. [Photo by Yang Jianmin for China Daily]

Discoveries spark interest among tourists along the famed ancient defense project

Rome was not built in a day and neither was the Great Wall of China.

The country's most iconic defensive structure was built in a period spanning some two millennia from the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Called "the Great Wall Museum", Shanxi province is one of the best places to see the ancient wonder with characteristics of various periods.

With a total length of more than 3,500 kilometers in Shanxi, the Great Wall runs through nine cities and about 40 counties. More than 1,500 km of walls and other relics remain relatively intact.

Yang Jianmin, a resident in Datong city in northern Shanxi, is a professional photographer and researcher of the Great Wall.

Over the course of his explorations, Yang has discovered in Shanxi relics of Great Wall sections built in the Warring States, Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), Northern Dynasties (386-581), as well as Song (960-1279) and Ming dynasties.

"Seen from the maps of China, the Great Wall is basically a long line from Hebei province in the east to Gansu province in the west," Yang said. "But in Shanxi, the Great Wall has many sections distributed in a broad area spreading about 800 km from north to south."

The Guangwu section of the Great Wall in Shanyin county is a complete defense system consisting of walls, watchtowers, fortresses and other facilities. [Photo by Yang Jianmin for China Daily]

The researcher said the Great Wall is a comprehensive defense system consisting of walls, fortresses and other military facilities.

Such a complete system can be found in the ancient town of Guangwu in Shanyin county.

The ancient town is composed of two villages-Old Guangwu and New Guangwu, which used to be two fortresses along the Great Wall built in the Ming Dynasty. There are no historical records showing when the ancient town was first built.

Archaeologists found a number of structural relics left by the Liao Dynasty (916-1125) but they don't believe the relics illustrate the town's origins. The city wall, 1,652 meters in length and 8.3 m in height, was built during the Ming Dynasty.

The residences inside the town are mostly houses in Ming Dynasty style.

Researchers believe the houses used to offer accommodation to military forces.

Neighboring the ancient town is a 32-square-kilometer site of about 300 Han Dynasty (202 BC-AD 220) tombs. Researchers speculate the site was a burial ground for generals and soldiers who died in battles against invaders about 2,000 years ago.

"When I was a child, I was told the ancient town and the Great Wall were built 1,000 years ago. But recent discoveries show the history of the relics should be at least 1,000 years older than that," said Ma Yufang, Party secretary of Old Guangwu village.

With more discoveries published, Ma said the Great Wall, the ancient town and Han tombs have sparked great interest among both researchers and tourists.

"We receive hundreds of visitors every day," Ma said. "Many of them are excited to be on this site to explore the storied history related to the Great Wall and related to the ancient frontier."