Education About Asia: Online Archives

Building the Great Wall

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The Great Wall of China has often been compared to a dragon, with its head in the East and tail to the West, winding over thousands of miles of hills and mountains. In fact, one legend tells us that it was a dragon who determined the course the wall would take. In China the dragon is an auspicious, protective creature, representing the life-giving force of water, and which embodies wisdom, strength, and goodness. So, too, does the Great Wall. It represents the Chinese Empire, protecting itself against attack by the nomads of the North, while remaining strong and good within. It symbolizes the orderliness of China, first brought to the land by the first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi. Water had been a lucky element of the Qin, and the emperor chose this as his symbol. Thereafter the Dragon was symbolic of the emperor.