The Great Wall of China

There are few structures in the world which attract the amount of rumours, truths and untruths that are attached to the phenomenon which is the Great Wall of China. This is a building project the likes of which will never be seen again and one which to this day attracts the attention of tourists around the world. This wall of stone and regular fortifications has been built, destroyed, a rebuilt and maintained from the sixth century BC.

The wall itself covers a distance of around 4000 miles although due to the arc in which it is built it is actually 4160 miles long. The Great Wall of China covers the region from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Nur in the west which defines the outer southern border of Inner Mongolia. There are many facts and figures about the Great Wall of China which have been created and built upon over the years which we will cover in this article.

The early beginnings of the Great Wall of China

While the Great Wall of China is the one fortification structure which grabs the headlines and appears in the history books today, this is not the first Wall to be built as a form of barrier between opposing countries. The Chinese were already familiar with the most up-to-date wall building techniques in the seventh century BC when the states of Qi, Yan, and Zhao had their own structures to keep out the warring factions. Many of these walls were destroyed at the beginning of the Qin Dynasty which brought together the various warring factions in what is now known as China.

It was the Ming Dynasty which brought about the Great Wall of China which we know today following defeat at the Battle of Tumu in 1449. The leaders began the long drawnout process of building a wall along the northern border of China in order to keep out their enemies and effectively create the country of Mongolia which we know today. This new strategy allowed the Ming Dynasty to consolidate their positions and created a massive barrier for the warring factions over the border to overcome before even commencing battle.

The building of the wall

While earlier defensive structures in China were created using earth which was rammed between wooden barriers, in the Ming Dynasty the Great Wall of China was more complex and stronger using bricks and stone to complete what turned out to be one of the best defensive barriers ever seen in the world. Various parties tried to break through the Great Wall of China although leaders insisted substantial time and effort was spent repairing and replacing damaged areas of the wall until finally Mongolia was brought into the fold. This then brought about the destruction of part of the wall so the Mongolian area could be brought into the Chinese empire.

Those who have visited the Great Wall of China will be well aware that it crosses some of the most uncompromising terrain in the world which is part of the reason why an estimated two to three million people died as a consequence of working on the wall. At its peak the Great Wall of China was protected by over one million soldiers who patrolled the outer area looking for invaders and attackers.

Strange facts and myths about the Great Wall of China

Despite a common myth that the Great Wall of China is the only structure on earth which is visible from the moon, this is not true as it would need to be around 70 miles in width before it could be even spotted on even the best visibility days from space.

It is rumoured that if you took all of the bricks installed during the Ming Dynasty period of the Great Wall of China you would be all to build a wall which was 5 feet in height all of the way around the world.

The first 3000 miles of the Great Wall saw over 1 million people die from accidents associated with the building process. During this period it was also estimated that the Great Wall employed 70% of China’s population on the project at some stage.

The height of the wall is an average of 25 feet and even though the Ming Dynasty section was built centuries ago the bricks were something of an engineering breakthrough as they were able to withstand pressure of over 1000lb per square inch. This by any stretch of imagination is remarkable given the tools and techniques which were known from the time.

While the wall has been common knowledge for centuries, researchers were amazed to discover over 500 miles of the Great Wall of China which have been buried for hundreds of years. This amazing find adds to the mystique and the general amazement which this phenomenal building project attracts in abundance.

The Great Wall of China has been the subject of many hoaxes and attempted frauds over the years with the so-called “Great Wall of China hoax” published in the US press on 25 June 1899. The story goes that an American businessman had bid to acquire the Great Wall of China, demolish the structure and construct a road in its place. While without any foundation whatsoever, the story has developed a myth like following and is often referred to as demonstrating “the power of the tongue”.


There is no doubt that the Great Wall of China itself is one of the greatest ever engineering projects in the world. It covers some of the harshest terrain in the world, has survived centuries, seen between two and three million people killed building it and attracts millions of visitors a year from all round the world.

Like so many large building projects from centuries ago all of the materials, where possible, were sourced from local supplies but it is known that many of the materials used in the wall were literally dragged or carried for miles. The subject of many hoaxes and attempted frauds over the years, the Great Wall of China has taken on a life of its own and is one of the wonders of the world.

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