Obama visits Great Wall, "inspired by its majesty"

09:03, November 19, 2009      

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U.S. President Barack Obama had a taste of Chinese history on Wednesday by visiting the country's most iconic site, the Great Wall.

U.S. President Barack Obama visits the Badaling section of the Great Wall in Beijing on Nov. 18, 2009.(Xinhua/Zhang Duo)

"It's magical," Obama said when walking along the Great Wall in chilly winter wind. "It reminds you of the sweep of history and our time here on earth is not that long. We better make the best of it."

Dressed in a dark winter jacket, a smiling Obama broke away from companions and walked alone along the ramp.

"I brought back the admiration for the Chinese civilization, I bring here the greetings of American People," Obama said when ascending a watchtower to enjoy a distant view at the Badaling section of the Great Wall.

Obama is the fifth U.S. president to visit the manmade wonder. Former U.S. President Richard Nixon visited the Great Wall in 1972,Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Bill Clinton in 1998. In 2002, former U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife Laura toured the same section as Obama did.

U.S. President Barack Obama visits the Badaling section of the Great Wall in Beijing on Nov. 18, 2009.(Xinhua/Zhang Duo)

"I'm inspired by the majesty of the Great Wall and am grateful for the warmth of the Chinese people," Obama wrote on the visitor's book after his half-hour tour.

The Great Wall was the second sightseeing program for Obama during his visit to China. He toured the Imperial Palace Tuesday after nearly two hours of talks with President Hu Jintao.

Built originally as the biggest defense work in ancient China, the Great Wall today has become one of the must-see places for visiting foreign leaders to the country in the past six decades.

The Badaling section, which is in the northwestern suburb of Beijing, runs about 3,741 meters on a mountain of about 700 to 800 meters above sea level, dotted with 19 beacon towers.

The wall at the Badaling section averages seven to eight meters in height, six to seven meters in thickness, with a width of four to five meters on top.

Over the past six decades, more than 450 heads of state and government have visited the Badaling section.

The Great Wall is listed among the UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage sites given its historic status.

Separated sections of the Great Wall were built as early as 2,000 years ago by small kingdoms to defend against raids from nomadic tribes to the north.

When Emperor Qinshihuang, the country's first emperor, united China for the first time in 221 B.C., he ordered the separate sections linked together, forming a complete military defense system.

The Great Wall today was mostly rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty(1368-1644).

With its sections stretching from northeast to west China, the Great Wall now runs 6,700 kilometers long and its section at Badaling is the first part that opens to tourists.

Source: Xinhua
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