The Great Wall of China

You have probably heard of the Great Wall of China. There is a myth that the Great Wall of China can be seen from space. However, this is not strictly true, it can only be seen if it is magnified from the earth’s orbit.

Perhaps you didn’t know that the Great Wall of China has a very long history. You might also be wondering why Chinese emperors decided to build the Great Wall in the first place.

The Great Wall of China is actually made up of lots of different walls dating back to ancient times. It is found in northern China. Most of it was built 500 years ago.

The Great Wall of China

How long is the Great Wall?

The Great Wall of China is extremely long. People have only estimated its length. It could be between 1,500 to 5,000 miles. Nobody is too sure because parts of the wall are no longer standing. Archaeologists have carried out a survey. A survey is when archaeologists gather information about an area.

For the case of the Great Wall of China, archaeologists have carried out a survey to try to get a more accurate estimation of its length. They have found it to be almost double what they thought, at 13,000 miles or 21,000 kilometres. That is like 175,000 football pitches put together!

Walls were built around some states to protect them between 771-476 BC (the Spring and Autumn Period). These fortifications were also built during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC).

Why was the Great Wall built?

The first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, wanted to protect the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). There were nomadic peoples from Inner Asia who invaded the area. They were a threat to the Qin Dynasty. Emperor Qin Shiu Huang built up the wall to provide some protection. At this time, the wall would have been made from mounds of compacted earth. It ran from Gansu in the northwest of China to northeast Asia.

The Great Wall in 1907

Following this, different emperors reinforced and rebuilt parts of the wall. The Han (202-220 AD) made the wall much longer and moved it further into the west.  The Northern Qi continued to build the wall and added 990 miles (1,600 km) to it. Jurchen Jun (115-1234 AD) built some stretches of wall and expanded it across China. The Ming emperors were the emperors that really developed the wall during their 264 years of rule in China. They built it in stone and brick.

No dynasty followed the same routes when they built the wall. Each emperor had their own ideas about which regions were important to protect. Some dynasties, like the Tang (618-907 AD), the Song (960-1279), the Yuan (1271-1368) and the Qing (1644-1911) did not build walls to protect their people. They chose other methods to ward off threats, like military expeditions and discussions with other rulers.

Ming Dynasty Great Wall

Most of the Wall that is in China now was the Wall built by the Ming Dynasty. Lots of the Wall has either fallen down or been taken down. Following the Ming Dynasty, other rival emperors chose to take down sections.

Many tourists now visit the Great Wall of China and it is a great source of pride to the Chinese people.

Ancient China