About The Great Wall Of China
The Great Wall of China covers much of the northern border of China and is the longest man-made structure in the world. If you take the length of the entire wall it is around 5,500 miles long! No wonder they call it the Great Wall.
The construction of the Great Wall of China goes back roughly 3,000 years to the Western Zhou Dynasty. The original constructions were lines of fortresses that defended against attacks from nomadic tribes in north China.
In the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC) the Emperor Qin Shihuang ordered his laborers to connect these scattered constructions and create some new sections, thus forming the Great Wall.
The Great Wall has been modified and extended throughout Chinese history for over 2,000 years. Most of the Great Wall we see today was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 AD).
Today, the Great Wall of China is one of the greatest tourist attractions on Earth. While some portions north of Beijing and near tourist centers have been preserved or even reconstructed, in many locations the Wall is falling apart. Those parts are often used as a village playground. The stones also get used to rebuild houses and roads. Even today, not all of China’s Great Wall has been mapped and some clues to where it stands can only be found in ancient Chinese texts.
The Great Wall begins at China’s Yellow Sea in the east and stretches like a mighty snake all the way past the City of Beijing into the west of China, ending at Lop Lake. It winds through harsh barren deserts, up unscalable mountains, and across mighty rivers. Its highest point is over 5,000 feet above sea level.
Building the Great Wall
In the beginning the Wall was made mostly from dirt and other raw materials. The workers would smash together huge piles of soil, leaves, hay, and mud into a wall. Not long after starting, the Chinese started using stones, bricks, and granite blocks. During the Ming Dynasty, watchtowers were turned into elaborate structures with tile patterns circling the doorways.
No machines were used to build the Great Wall. All of the work was done by hand! Workers came from three groups: soldiers, peasants, and criminals. Hundreds of thousands of workers were forced to leave their families and jobs for years at a time to help construct the Great Wall. Many workers lost their lives in the building process, and it is said that for every block laid down, one laborer lost his life. Finding workers and taking care of them was a difficult task. New towns had to be formed along the Wall to house the workers. Farmers throughout China were growing food, not only for themselves but also for the laborers on the Wall.
Why Was the Wall Built
The main reason the Great Wall of China was built was to protect the Chinese Empire from the Mongolians and other invaders.
Other Things the Great Wall Has Been Used For
- To house soldiers and store grain and weapons
- To transmit military information
- To protect economic development and cultural progress
- To safeguard trading routes
Facts About the Great Wall
- The Wall has over 7,000 lookout towers.
- Wide moats were often dug in flat areas outside the Wall to make an enemy's approach more difficult.
- Smoke signals and fires were used to indicate enemy attacks.
- The height and width of the Wall vary, but the sections built by the Ming Dynasty average 33 feet tall and 15 feet wide.
- People used to say that the Great Wall could be seen from the Moon, but this is just a myth.
- The wheelbarrow, which the Chinese invented, no doubt was a great help in building much of the Wall.
- The Wall is made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, lime, tile, and other indigenous materials.
- Since millions died building the Wall, it has been nicknamed the longest cemetery in the world.
- Historians are trying to protect sections of the Walls from further erosion.
- The Wall was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
A Great Wall Legend
As with most ancient monuments, there are many legends that surround the Great Wall of China. One of the most famous legends is the story of a woman named Meng Jiangnu. Her husband was sent by force to build part of the Great Wall during the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC). After a long time apart, with no word from her husband, Meng set out to find him. She soon discovered that he had died while building the wall. Legend has it that her loud, bitter weeping caused part of the Great Wall to collapse.
This legend has probably grown over time. It speaks to the fact that many lives were lost during the Great Wall's 2,000 years of construction.