Tap to Read ➤

Facts about the Great Wall of China

Uttara Manohar
The Great Wall of China is an epic monument that has always fascinated people all over the world.

Did You Know?

The Great Wall of China is the site for an annual marathon, The Great Wall Marathon, held in the Tianjin section of the Wall.
The Great Wall of China is a masterpiece of medieval Chinese architecture, and is a result of the breathtaking efforts of mankind to bring to life such a monstrous structure in the trying conditions of midland China. The Wall stretches through deserts, mountains, valleys and forests, proudly defying the forces of nature for hundreds of years.
Through the rough-and-tumble natural and political upheavals all around it, the Wall continues to stand tall as an ode to China's glorious history and is a major tourist attraction for tourists from across the world.
The Great Wall was built, in patches, by several emperors and dynasties. The construction was started by the emperors of the Qin Dynasty around 221 B.C.
Who Built the Great Wall of China?
The wall served as a barricade to keep off attackers like the nomadic Hsiung Nu tribes from Northern China/Mongolia. The wall was put together by locals along with criminals and soldiers.
Over the years, the wall was modified numerous times. The Ming Dynasty oversaw the expansion of the wall with additions such as watch-towers and cannons.
Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty contributed to the construction of this mammoth project, constructing the stretch from Dunhuang to Yangtze.

The Sui and Jin dynasties also added to the Wall.
The Great Wall is situated in the northern and central provinces of China, almost parallel to the Mongolian border. It runs through Liaoning, Hebei, Tianjin, Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Ningxia and Gansu.
Where is the Great Wall Situated?

When Was the Great Wall Built?

If considered in its entirety, the construction of the Wall took place disjointedly over more than a thousand years, beginning with the Qin (pronounced as 'chin') dynasty in the 2nd century BC and ending with the Ming dynasty, c. 1500. The majority of the wall seen today was built by the Ming dynasty, which ruled from 1368 to 1644.

Can The Great Wall Be Seen From The Moon?

Despite the claims in Ripley's Believe It Or Not, the Great Wall is not visible from the moon to the naked eye without optical aid.
The major loophole in Ripley's claim (1932), and indeed any other such claim made before 1969, is that it was made before man went to moon, and thus had the chance to look for the Great Wall from the surface of the earth's dear friend.
The Wall can be photographed from space (Google Maps et al), but even then it is barely discernible against its similarly colored surroundings, and can only be seen if the observer knows exactly where to look.

Is the Great Wall of China A 'Wonder of the World'?

The Great Wall is considered among the wonders of the medieval world, along with the likes of the Stonehenge, the Colosseum and the Taj Mahal.

It was made a World Heritage Site in 1987.

What is the Great Wall Made Up of?

In its nascent stages, when swords and spears were the primary threat, the Great Wall was mainly built from mud, stones (gravel), and wood. The use of bricks was a later, Ming-era development.
Owing to the enormous amounts of raw material required to construct the Great Wall of China, the builders usually used easily available local material. For instance, while building over mountain ranges stones from the mountains were used, soil was pounded into solid blocks to be used in construction on the plain, whereas in the deserts, the sanded reeds, juniper and tamarisk were put to use.
The wheelbarrow, which was invented around the same time, helped speed up the construction of the Great Wall by a great deal.
The main stretch of the Great Wall (constructed by the Ming dynasty) runs along from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Lake in the west.
How Large is the Great Wall?
It is a vast stretch that adds up to about 8852 km. The walls are split by trenches, rivers and hills to complement the mammoth fortification itself. The entire, disjointed structure of the Wall (including the earlier versions) has been reported to be up to 21,000 km in total.
It is about 20 feet high and 15 feet wide. In rural areas, where the sections have fallen into disrepair, the width can be considerably less.

What was the Purpose of the Great Wall?

The Great Wall of China was developed by the Ming dynasty as a deterrent against northern settlements of Mongol tribes; the Ming kings deployed almost a million soldiers along the length of the Wall to protect the Empire from the Mongols.
Before them, the warring states in China (Qin, Qi, Chu, Han etc.) had built fragmented sections as safeguards against each other. It provided useful sites for lookout posts and created an elevated military route through the harsh, rugged terrain.
The Great Wall of China also safeguarded trade routes, such as the Silk Road, from aggressive tribes in the north.
The disjointed, pre-Ming sections of the Wall couldn't protect China from Genghis Khan, who simply went around the walls and conquered China. China was among the very first conquests of the all-conquering Mongols, and was ruled by the Central Asian tribesmen (the Yuan dynasty) for several years.
Later, the Mongols were defeated by the Ming dynasty, who then added crucial sections and watch towers to the Wall.

The Wall was last used in military engagement during the 1938 Sino-Japanese War.

Why Is The Great Wall Called the Longest Graveyard on Earth?

The Great Wall of China is the longest man-made structure in the world. Naturally, thousands of laborers were put to work during its construction, many of whom lost their lives. Due to this, some writers have remarked that the Great Wall is the longest graveyard in the world. The construction is supposed to have taken more than a million lives!
However, contrary to popular misconception, the dead bodies weren't used as building material for the Wall.

What is the Great Wall Called in Chinese?

The Great Wall is called the Wan Li Changcheng, which translates as 'a wall many li long'. 'Li' is a Chinese unit of measurement, equating to approximately a third of a mile (half a kilometer).

How Many People Visit The Great Wall?

About 40-45 million foreigners visit the Great Wall every year. The Great Wall's reputation as a tourist destination grew by leaps and bounds after US President Richard Nixon's visit in 1972.

Since then, numerous world leaders, such as Ronald Reagan, Michail Gorbachev, Rajiv Gandhi, Fidel Castro, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have visited the Wall.
The Badaling section of the Wall, which is close to Beijing, the Chinese capital, is popular with political visitors.

Some of the most famous sections of the Wall are Badaling, Jinshanling, Simatai and Juyongguan.
The growing demands of tourism have, sadly, threatened the maintenance of the Great Wall. The Chinese government has yet to find an equilibrium between the commercialization and preservation of the Wall and, like so many of its contemporary Wonders of the World, the Great Wall is under threat from increased erosion and often-destructive tourist activities.
Although even the most destructive human activities will take thousands of lifetimes to erode the Great Wall, the imposing -- Voltaire once described it as 'a monument to fear' -- structure must be preserved in its pristine condition.