The great wall of China isn’t actually a single wall; it is a network of fortifications. Most of them were built along what was then China’s northern borders in order to protect ancient Chinese states from various nomadic groups that lived on the steppes.
Parts of the Great Wall extend into present-day North Korea, Mongolia, and even southern Russia.
The Great Wall of China is generally wider at the base than at the top to increase its stability. The base of the Wall has an average width of 21 feet (6.5 meters). The top of the wall has an average width of 13 to 16 feet (4 to 5 meters), which can accommodate a roadway wide enough to let four horsemen ride abreast. The width allowed soldiers to transport weapons and other supplies. The walls on either side of the roadway are typically 1.3 to 1.6 feet (0.4 to 0.5 meters) thick.
The Chinese have had different names for the Great Wall during its long history. The historian Sima Qian (c. 145-86 BC), for example, called it the “Long Rampart(s)” in his work “Records of the Grand Historian.” Back then, the name referred to the walls erected during the Warring States period and those constructed during the reign of the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang (259 – 210 BC), who unified China and established the Qin Dynasty.
Another history text, “The Book of Song,” which was published in 493 AD, described the Great Wall as the “long wall of 10,000 miles.”
As the First Emperor had a reputation for cruelty, later dynasties avoided calling their additions to the Great Wall the “Long Rampart.” They used such terms as “barrier,” “outer fortress,” and “border wall.” More poetic names for the Great Wall included “the Earth Dragon” and “the Purple Frontier.” During the Qing dynasty (1636 – 1911), which was China’s last imperial dynasty, people simply called the Great Wall the “Long Wall.”
Many Chinese now call the Great Wall the “Long Wall of 10,000 Li.”
The ancient Chinese began building defensive walls millennia ago. The oldest known such wall is the Chu Great Wall, which is also called Fancheng. It was erected during the 7th century BC in the Spring and Autumn Period, which makes it roughly 2700 years old. The Chu Great Wall is 310 miles (500 kilometers) long and is U-shaped.
By contrast, the newest parts of the wall were constructed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Other dynasties that added to the Great Wall include the following:
• Qi Dynasty (1122 – 221 BC)
• Chu Dynasty (1115 – 223 BC)
• Yan Dynasty (1122 – 222 BC)
• Zhao Dynasty (403 – 222 BC)
• Wei Dynasty (403 -225 BC)
• Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC)
• Han Dynasty (202 BC- 220 AD)
• Northern Wei Dynasty (386 – 534)
• Northern Qi/Sui Dynasty (550 -618)
• Jin Dynasty (1115 – 1234)
After gaining control over all of China in 221 BC, Emperor Qin Shi Huang destroyed those parts of the Wall that had served as borders between the different states. He then had new walls constructed to unite the remaining fortifications and protect his empire from northern nomads called the Xiongnu.
Yes, the Badaling section of the wall makes a great day trip from Beijing.
Approximately 500.000 people take part in building of the wall.
The wall was ordered built by whatever warlord or emperor happened to be in charge at the time. The labor was done by peasants, soldiers, and whomever else who was able to be conscripted. In the earliest years, the people would have used clay. Later, bricks were used. As the workers died, they were buried near the wall.
Visitors should bear in mind that the wall is not one unbroken structure, but a series of walls. Some sections have been well preserved and repaired. Others have deteriorated over the centuries; some are in ruins.
The first step is to choose a section. Badaling is the closest to Beijing and draws the biggest crowds. It is also well-restored and has guardrails and wide and wide walkways. Badaling is about 2.3 miles long, and visitors who don’t want to hike that distance do have the option of taking a cable car.
Simatai is known for its night tours. It is three miles long and very steep. The Wall goes over the reservoir and the more adventuresome travelers can take a zipline. People who visit in the day can enjoy the Sky Bridge and Heavenly Ladder, which boast spectacular views of mountain ridges.
Other parts of the Wall are “wild,” which means they haven’t yet been restored. It may be possible to camp in some areas, but campers will have to bring their own gear.
Jinshanling is 6.5 miles long and has both restored and wild sections. It runs along the Jinshanling Mountains, and visitors can enjoy five mountain passes and 67 watchtowers. It is remote enough to have relatively few visitors.
Spring and fall are the best seasons for visiting the Great Wall. It does get windy, and much of the Wall is exposed. The wise traveler will thus dress in layers.
The Great Wall of China includes guard towers, beacon towers, stairways, bridges and battlements.
The ancient Chinese used whatever they found on the ground to build the wall. They used stone, rocks, clay tiles, and lime. They even used wood, mud, hard packed dirt and rubble.
The Jiankou section of the Great Wall has the dangerous sky stair. The angle of ascent is between 70 and 80 degrees. The Simatai section has the ladder-like ‘Stairway to Heaven’, an 85 degree slope which narrows to 30 centimeters wide in some places.
Thousands of battles have been fought at the Great Wall. The last one was in 1938 during th Sino-Japanese War. Bullet holes are still visible on the Wall at Gubeikou.
In China, the wall is called Wann Li Channg-Ch’ng. That means Long Wall of 10,000 Li. A li equals 0.3 of a mile.
Over 400 world leaders and famous people have visited the Badaling section of the Great Wall. These include President Obama, President Nixon, President Reagan, Norman Schwarzkopf, President George W. Bush, Queen Elizabeth II, and Japan’s Emperor Akihito.
In 1984, Dong Yao-Hui and two companions, Zhang Yuan-Hua and Wu De-yu, set out to hike the entire length of the Ming Great Wall. It took them 17 months to traverse all 5500.3 miles of it. They became known as the first people to walk the entire length of the Ming portion of the Great Wall.
Their feat drew national attention to the wall. At the time, China was just emerging from the Cultural Revolution of the 60s and 70s, and the Great Wall had been neglected for decades. During their hike, Dong and his friends were horrified to see how much of the Wall had fallen into disrepair.
Dong eventually founded the Great Wall Society, which reported in 2014 that only 8.2 percent of the Wall is in good condition.
Yes. The Chinese have been working to protect the Great Wall -especially since UNESCO declared it A World Heritage Site in 1987. In 2006, for example, the State Council issued the “Regulation on the Protection of the Great Wall” to strengthen existing laws.
The Chinese government gave the job of protecting the Great Wall to the Cultural Relics Administrative Department.
In May 2019, tourism authorities decided to cap the number of visitors to the popular Badaling section of the Great Wall at 65,000 per day. The cap is intended to promote safety, reduce crowding, and prevent damage to the Wall.
No. Somehow, the myth started in 1904 that it was possible to see the Great Wall from the Moon’s surface. When Apollo astronauts visited the Moon in 1969, they found that this was not true. Years later, astronauts with the Chinese space program made the same discovery.
Astronauts who worked at the International Space Station (ISS), which is much closer to Earth than the moon also found they couldn’t see the Great Wall.
NASA eventually found that it was possible to photograph the Great Wall with low-orbit satellites using radar.
Yes. As already mentioned, the government of China wants to protect the Great Wall, so there are now rules designed to help preserve it. For example, people are no longer allowed to take bricks from the Wall as souvenirs or building materials. Littering, graffiti, and other types of vandalism are also forbidden.
Businesses are not allowed to construct buildings, roads or railway tracks near the Great Wall. Nor is anybody allowed to organize activities that aren’t open to the public.
The Chinese say the Great Wall is a dragon winding over the mountains. When you look at pictures you can see that's a fact. It really does look like a dragon.
In 2009, the Great Wall of China was estimated to be about 5500 miles (8850 kilometers) long. This turned out to be a gross underestimate.
Two years earlier, China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) began a survey of the Great Wall, which took them through 15 provinces. By the time the SACH had finished in 2012, they had mapped 13,170.7 miles (21,196.2 kilometers) of wall. The SACH also identified 43,721 “heritage sites” that included ruins, stretches of the Wall, and various fortifications and facilities.
Most of the existing wall was built during the Ming Dynasty, and this part is 5500.3 miles (8851.8 kilometers). The Ming Wall is the best-known section of the Great Wall, as part of it is in Beijing. The Ming Wall includes nine garrisons, 223 miles (359 kilometers) of trenches, and 1387 miles (2232 kilometers) of natural barriers like rivers and hills. The actual wall made up 3889 miles (6259 kilometers) of the Ming wall.
The Han Dynasty constructed 3728.2 miles (6000 kilometers) of wall.
Construction of the earliest sections began during the Spring and Autumn periods (770 – 476 B.C.).
The average height of any given part of the Wall is around 25.6 feet (7.8 meters), while the tallest parts are 46 feet (14 meters) high.
The Great Wall of China also varies widely in altitude. The lowest part, which is Laolongtou or Old’s Dragon Head, ends at the Bohai Sea. It is thus at just sea level. By contrast, the highest point, which is in Huanglouwa, stands 4722.1 feet (1439.3 meters) high.
Walls are generally built to do either of two things: keep enemies out and keep citizens in. China was once a collection of states and kingdoms that fought each other and the nomads who came from the north. The states Zhongshan, Zhao, Yan, Wei, Qin, Qi, and Han all built walls to protect their own borders.
After China became one country, its emperors continued adding to the Great Wall to protect its northern borders.