Dr. Freedman with his daughter, Jessica, at the Great Wall

Dr. Freedman with his daughter, Jessica, at the Great Wall

As one of Oceania Cruises’ passionate guest lecturers, Dr. John Freedman thrives on sharing his in-depth knowledge of international cultures while sailing around the globe with our guests. Combining his well-established career in medicine with a fascination with faraway lands, Dr. Freedman has led a number of medical volunteer programs and relief efforts throughout the world. He has spent over 30 years exploring Asia in particular, and delights in sharing his insight on the rich complexity of history and culture shaping this vast continent. Below, Dr. Freedman sheds light on the mystique of the Great Wall of China.

For me there is simply no other experience on the planet like walking on the Great Wall of China. It is astounding on so many levels.

Its history and its great antiquity grip the imagination:  from its origins in the 7th century BC, to its famous consolidation by China’s very first Emperor in 221 BC, to its remarkable enhancement into its current state of architectural grandeur by the great Ming emperors of the 14th and 15th centuries. The sheer scope boggles the mind. Can it really extend over 5,500 miles east to west across the vast expanse of northern China? Indeed it does. It stands without peer as both the largest and longest building project in human history. As a technological feat, it inspires awe. Looking around from any vantage point, it is an engineering marvel that seems to border on the impossible, carving a massive serpentine path along the crests of steep and craggy mountains. The natural beauty of its setting is breathtaking. The wall offers undulating mountain vistas, and its thousands of towers are never-ending, changing magnificently with the seasons.

Badaling, a section of the Great Wall about 50 miles northwest of Beijing

Badaling, a section of the Great Wall about 50 miles northwest of Beijing

From a functional standpoint, the wall is intriguing — and full of irony. Its principal function was always to serve as a defensive military barrier to protect the realm against invasion from the north by barbarian tribes. Secondarily, it served as an east-west transportation corridor for merchants and messengers, through otherwise impenetrable terrain. It also served important social functions, controlling migration and dividing civilized society from the hinterlands. Yet despite its grand extent and great utility, the wall ultimately failed in its principal military function: China twice succumbed to foreign invasion by northern intruders, first by the Mongol hordes of Kublai Khan in 1279 and then by fierce Manchu armies in 1644. The Mongols stayed as overlords in China for 97 years, and the Manchus stayed as rulers for well over two centuries.

Mutianyu, a section of the Great Wall about 40 miles northeast of Beijing

Mutianyu, a section of the Great Wall about 40 miles northeast of Beijing

Today, the changcheng (“long wall”, as the Chinese very aptly refer to it) is China’s premier tourist attraction and undeniably qualifies as one of the world’s greatest wonders. Whatever part of the wall you visit, you will be impressed. The Badaling and Mutianyu sections of the wall are nearest to Beijing, while the Huangyaguan Pass section is nearest to the port of Tianjin. All are striking and awe-inspiring as they carve their sure and mighty path over miles of rugged mountain terrain, enduring as a powerful symbol of the country.

 

 

 

This winter, discover the Great Wall of China first-hand and join Dr. Freedman’s compelling lectures:

Nautica’s Asian Interlude voyage, February 21, 2015
Nautica’s Emperors & Empires voyage, March 10, 2015

Dr. Freedman will also be sharing insightful knowledge on a range of fascinating Asian & African destinations as he joins us on the following voyages:

Nautica’s Pagodas & Palaces voyage, February 5, 2015
Nautica’s Mythical Asia voyage, March 26, 2015
Insignia’s Pagodas & Palaces voyage, October 10, 2015
Insignia’s Sultans & Safaris voyage, October 26, 2015

We look forward to welcoming you aboard soon!

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