Visiting the Great Wall and Ming Tombs: a Journey through China’s Ancient and Modern Past
By Harrison Stevens ’22 and Kevin Kuryla ’22
Today, our group experienced a treasured landmark, The Great Wall of China. The Great Wall is something constantly referenced in history textbooks, is one of the world’s wonders and is quite a sight to behold. The group traversed approximately 200 meters of the wall out of over 5000 kilometers, and after the hike everyone was absolutely exhausted. Although we only covered a tiny portion of the wall it still pushed the entire group to their cardiac limits. It seemed impossible to us that this wall could be constructed over 3000 years ago, when technology was so primitive. We heard stories claiming that many lives were lost during construction and that the bodies were buried within the wall. These stories left a slightly eerie feeling in the air, because it is possible that we were in fact walking over the remains of dead bodies. Regardless, the Great Wall of China left us all blown away when we looked up from the uneven steps and took in the breathtaking scenery. We were the first to reach the highest peak of the designated segment of walls. Sweat dripping from our faces and gasping for breath, we turned around. The valley seemed to be enveloped by fog. The wall that we were standing on had no beginning or end, and we were at the epicenter of something much bigger than ourselves. The best way to describe this feeling of elation is a cross between when Rocky summits the steps in Philadelphia and in the Lion King when Simba is presented to the world. Miles upon miles of green landscape merged and disappeared into the sky. Where the ground fell away on these steep cliffs, brilliant colored rocks jutted out. This school year, I spent hours upon hours watching brilliant pictures of nature float by on classroom Apple TVs, never expecting to be have the chance to not just see but to experience them as well. The climb down was much easier than the climb up, but on the ground, I had the urge to climb back up. After this incredible morning, our class visited the Ming Tombs. The Ming Dynasty had one of the most successful reigns in Chinese history. Out of the 13 Emperors of the Dynasty, 11 of them have been buried in this massive cemetery. The one thing in particular that was crazy was how meticulously symmetrical everything was. The massive half mile walkway mirrored itself down to the shrubbery. The only complex open to the public was that of Emperor Yongle, one of China’s most famous emperors. The actual tomb was a massive wooden structure with a giant bronze statue of the emperor himself in the center. It was crazy to see the scale of the population’s devotion to their emperors. All in all, today was an awestriking experience for us.