The Great Wall served as the natural barrier for the safety of inner China in ancient times. It tramps over hills and dales. Its unique architectural style is a great wonder in the world. There are many different kinds of designs for the fortifications on the wall, such as passes, beacon towers and walls, and each of them has various functions.
Great Wall Passes:
Passes are the most massive defense beachheads on the wall, often located in places of military importance which are favorable for defense. They are often composed of square walls, gates, gate towers, and moats. Take an example of the passes of the Ming-dynasty Great Wall. The Ming Great Wall boasts about one thousand passes. Among those, the most notable ones are Shanhaiguan, Huangyaguan, Juyongguan, Zijingguan, Daomaguan, Pingxingguan, Yanmenguan, Pianguan and Jiayuguan passes. Near to some big passes, the small passes can be found. They make up of a few lines of defence. Like the Juyongguan Pass, besides itself, it possesses the small passes of Nankou, Beikou and Shangguan.
Great Wall Beacon Towers:
Beacon towers were used for passing military messages. They were often built on the tops of the mountains or rises for convenience in watching the enemies' movements. Due to its unique function, it is regarded as the oldest effective telegraph system in Chinese history. During the daytime, as fire cannot be seen very clearly in the strong sunshine, guarders take advantage of smoke to pass messages. At night, they use fire to do that. According to the times that the smoke is given out or the firebrands are lifted, the soldiers can size up the enemy situation correctly. In the Ming Dynasty, giving off smoke one time (or lifting one firebrand) together with a gun shot suggests there are about one hundred enemies. Additionally, the layout of the beacon towers is also very important. They were often built on dangerous peaks or wandering paths. And also the neighboring two of them can see each other very clearly.
A beacon tower at Jinshanling
A Beacon Tower at Jinshanling
Walls are the main part of the construction, averaging about 26.6 feet tall. They serve as the important link connecting the passes, beacon towers, watch towers and other military structures together. It was built very firmly at some vital passes. For example, the Great Wall at Juyongguan Pass and Badaling is around 23 to 26 feet tall generally. The bottom is around 20 to 23 feet wide and the top is about 13 to 16 feet wide. On the top of some important sections, walls were built layer after layer to block off the enemies who have already reached the walls.
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