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The Great Wall: The Extraordinary Story of China's Wonder of the World

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  142 ratings  ·  22 reviews
It is a wonder of the world. Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists journey to the Great Wall of China, and a myriad of photographs have made it familiar to millions more. Yet its story remains mysterious and steeped in myth.In this riveting account, John Man travels the entire length of the Great Wall and across two millennia to find the truth behind the legend. Al ...more
ebook, 349 pages
Published August 4th 2009 by Da Capo Press (first published 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 323)
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Troy Parfitt
China, it seems, is a land that conjures much myth among non-Chinese, and "the Great Wall," as historian John Man deftly illustrates, is one such myth. To begin with: there is no wall; it doesn't exist. Rather there are a whole series of walls, built at different times, by different rulers, of different materials, and for a whole host of different reasons. This assortment of barriers was never effective at keeping out the marauding barbarian hordes, chiefly because it was never intended to do th ...more
Dispelling myths, clarifying history, exploring folk stories and legends.
Well presented, fairly quickly moving considering the volume of history to be covered, and readable.
The Great Wall is the only man-made structure visible from the moon... No, not visible from orbit, or the Moon or Mars.
The Great Wall... No, not one wall, many unlinked walls.
6000 km long... Well, how do you measure the multiple overlapping walls? What about the bits that aren't even walls, just embankments?
Over 2000 years ol
Darren Chin
John Man is my favourite non-fiction writer and for good reasons, too. He brings readers on a journey, not to story-tell, but to invite you to paint the scenes that he recounts with vivid details in your mind as if you were there, changing and shifting in shape, colour or form in every second as he outlines what you might expect to behold if you were there. This book is no different, offering an unbiased yet interestingly truthful account of the storied past, present and future of one of the wor ...more
Babak Fakhamzadeh
I love John Man's style and subjects, heavy on Central and East Asia, with a clear preference for all things Mongolian and, to an extent, Chinese.

After writing his The Terracotta Army, he progressed, naturally, I suppose, to this history of the great wall. Although, particularly towards the end of the book, Man too often goes into too much factual detail on the current state of affairs of parts of the wall he visits, making his story into something of a travelogue. Not uninteresting, but also n
Nov 08, 2008 Jodi rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people traveling to see the wall
I picked up this book because I wanted to learn more about the Great Wall which I am trying to convince my husband to take the time to see on our trip to China in January. I wish I could do 2 1/2 stars and this is probably not even fair - the book is well-researched and very interesting at points with all of the tales/folklore about the wall. However, I am not very well-versed in Chinese history so at times my eyes glazed over with references to dates, emperors, wars, and locations. If I knew m ...more
After 250 pages about the wall(s) and wall building, after learning of the incredible cost, loss of life and dubious benefits, this quote from Emir Muhammad of Qatar stays with you: "I am sure mankind will benefit from it in the future.",

While millions of tourists visit the restored wall outside of Beijing, there are hundreds of miles of wall to be explored. Author, John Man visits many less famous and some virtually unknown segments. He travels to remote areas of China and Mongolia. In some pl
This is a mostly enjoyable book that is part history and part travelogue. The chapters on the history of The Great Wall are interwoven with chapters on the author's travels to the various parts of the Wall. The travel portions are entertaining in themselves, though at times they feel as if they are drifting away from the subject, especially the sections in Mongolia, which focus a little too much on the socio-political conditions of Mongolia, and a bit too little on the Wall itself.
The historical
Having been to "The Wall" last year, I knew there was a lot of misunderstanding about it. Man has done an excellent job of researching the many walls that have come and gone over the last 2000 years. China has restored and developed the portion of the Great Wall at Badaling, north of Beijing, but there are and were many other portions of walls built to defend against the (mostly Mongolian) invaders from the North.

Although accompanied by great photos and maps, the locations and names in the book
The Great Wall can be seen from space. Not. John Mann gives a great history and geography lesson on China and the Great Wall while dispelling myths like "seen from space" one and "the wall is one continuous structure for 1000 miles". It is not. Mann writes this not as gotcha skeptic, but rather as a investigative reporter. He obviously loves China and Asia as he has written several other books about the history of the region. This book is a good history lesson as well as a very nice read. Mann w ...more
David Robillard
I've had the chance to visit China, so this book was like a dive into my own memories. Very well written and very interesting for anyone who's into history and great stories.
David R.
Man travels about China to discover the real Wall of China -- only a part of which is the one that comes to mind. Along the way he speaks with the peoples who live in its shadow, and tells a little history about China and the "barbarians" of the north. There's a lot of surprise for the western reader--you may not know the wall at all!
What we think of "the Great Wall of China" is a myth: it is not great everywhere, not all of it is really a wall, and when it was built, not all of it was in China. But what it is, and was, is still pretty interesting. Man combines travelogue, history, and mythology to tell the story of the wall.

My favorite parts were the various myths and embroidered versions of history that have sprung up around parts of the wall and their creators. Man does a pretty good job of separating out probable fact fr
Kenny Chan
The author uses the Great Wall to weave together an accessible intro to the history of China; in the process, shattering some popular myths about this architectural wonder. The image of the Wall as it appears to foreigners today -- primarily the well-restored section in Badaling, gives a deceptive picture of what the Wall was like then and elsewhere. It's not one continuous segment, it overlaps in places, and parts of it are just rammed earth. And it certainly can't be seen from space!
William Hayes
For me, a very distressing item in the book is the photograph showing a smiling U.S. President (Domino Theory Dick Nixon) walking on the wall alongside the leaders of the nation (and the people) whom he had vilified as Communist devils.

To see that photo and then to recall the friends and acquaintances who died in wars pursued by Dick Nixon and others of the "Better Dead than Red" persuasion is ... well, "poignant" is too insubstantial a word.
Not as good as I had hoped. The book is a mix of travel diary interpersed with historical snippets. But the author betrays his ignorance when he notes that an inscription in Chinese on one gate is written from right to left and remarks that this shows that it did not matter how writing was done when traditionally, Chinese is written from right to left and only changed to read from left to right recently.
I feel like I just took a trip to China! This book covers both the history of the wall and China in general and what it is like today. John Man's travelogue-like descriptions make you feel like you're really there.
H. L.  Mullins-Owens
A riviting and detailed account of the history of the great wall spanning the many centuries and emperors who played a role in its development.
I liked this more as it went along - it is interesting subject and the author uses historical anecdotes to illuminate parts of the wall.
Abhishek Achal
Amazing read . You will know so much about the truth of the great wall. Absolutely informative and messmerizing descriptions
Too much myth and folk tales for me. I have read better.
Some nice photos, the text is boringgg
Funny and informative.
Bethany Nelson
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John Anthony Garnet Man is a British historian and travel writer. His special interests are China, Mongolia and the history of written communication. He takes particular pleasure in combining historical narrative with personal experience.

He studied German and French at Keble College, Oxford, before doing two postgraduate courses, a diploma in the History and Philosophy of Science at Oxford and Mon
More about John Man...
Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection Attila the Hun Kublai Khan: The Mongol King Who Remade China Ninja: 1,000 Years of the Shadow Warrior Alpha Beta: How 26 Letters Shaped the Western World

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