Main content

The Great Wall of China

Melvyn Bragg and guests Julia Lovell, Rana Mitter and Frances Wood discuss The Great Wall of China.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Great Wall of China.The Great Wall is not a single Wall. It is not visible from space, contrary to popular belief, as it is much too thin. But it remains a spectacular architectural and historical phenomenon.The Great Wall's military importance, and its symbolic power, have varied widely in its long existence, as its place in Chinese life has shifted with the country's history. It was initially constructed at the command of the first Emperor, from 221 BC, and was a combination of the various protective walls that had been built by the smaller states which he had conquered and merged to form China. The original Wall was made of pounded earth, and in places the wind-carved remains of this two thousand year old construction are still visible. But the Wall which is familiar to us today is the work of the Ming Dynasty, and its vast programme of reinforcement - prompted by a renewed threat from the Mongols in the north. In the 17th century, amazed Jesuits sent back reports to Europe about the Wall, and ever since it has held a powerful place in the imagination of the West. Some scholars argue that this in turn has shaped the modern Chinese appreciation of their astounding inheritance.Julia LovellLecturer in Chinese History at Birkbeck College, University of LondonRana MitterProfessor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of OxfordFrances WoodHead of the Chinese Section at the British LibraryPRODUCER: PHIL TINLINE.

Available now

45 minutes

Last on

Tue 4 May 2010 21:30


  • Thu 29 Apr 2010 09:00
  • Tue 4 May 2010 21:30

Featured in...

In Our Time podcasts

In Our Time podcasts

Every episode of In Our Time is available to download.

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

If you’re new to In Our Time, this is a good place to start.

Arts and Ideas podcast

Arts and Ideas podcast

Download the best of Radio 3's Free Thinking programme.