Great Wall of China: Greatness & History Combined

The Great Wall of China is the longest man-made structure in the world. Traversing the northern part of the country, what was once a huge military line of defense has now become a unique world heritage site and a symbol of China.

The Chinese name of the wall is pronounced “wàn lǐ cháng chéng” which literally translates to “The Long Wall of 10,000 Miles”. The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials, generally built along an east-to-west line across the historical northern borders of China. Originally the wall was built to protect the Chinese states and empires against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups of the surrounding regions. The following pieces of information reveal a Great Wall hitherto unknown to you.

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1. With a total length of 21,196.18 km, equal to half the length of the Equator, the Great Wall of China is the longest feat of human engineering.

2. The average height of the walls is 7.8 meters, and the highest is 14 meters.

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3. The altitudes of the walls vary. The highest point is the Huanglouyuan in the northwest suburb of Beijing, with an elevation of 1,439.3 meters, while the lowest point is at Laolongtou in Hebei, just above the sea level.

4. More than 1,000, 000 laborers were recruited for the construction of this huge project.

5. 1/3 of the walls have disappeared.

6. As a must-see in China, it attracts 50 million visitors every year and had been visited by more than 460 state heads and VIPs from around the world.

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7. The structure is not in a single long line. In fact, there is not one wall, but many walls, in the plural. It is a defensive network consisting of many walls and forts built in different historical periods, with some segments scattering while some running parallel. In some places, the wall doubles or even triples itself.

8. It is named a ‘Wall’, but actually, it is not only a simple ‘Wall’. Historical facts show that it was a comprehensive fortification, consisting of overlapping walls and trenches for blocking enemies, watchtowers and beacon towers for signals and communication, fortresses for head-on battles, and barracks to accommodate soldiers.

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9. For thousands of years, the Great Wall to some extent acted like both a physical and mental barrier between the central Chinese Empire and the barbarian northern nomads, but this only worked for the underdog. Several strong nomadic tribes in history had managed passage across the barrier. For instance, in 13th century, the Mongols led by Genghis Khan breached the wall and subjugated north and central China for nearly 100 years.

10. In early 19th century, the immense scale of the Wall had once given rise to a rumor that it could be seen from the moon with naked eyes. In fact, it is invisible from the space. Difficulty in observing the wall with unaided eyes from space equals that of seeing a hair from two miles away.

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11. During the Cultural Revolution from 1960’s to 1970’s, miles of the Wall were vandalized or destroyed to make way for infrastructure construction. Many bricks were moved to build civilian houses or farms. From the 1980’s to 1990’s, some people even pillaged the bricks and sold them. It was common to see the ramparts being reduced to give way to road or factory construction. There was no clear regulation on the conservation of the Wall until 2006.

12. In 1987, the Great Wall was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Today, it is recognized as the emblem of China and attracts numerous international visitors. However, before the 20th century, it was seldom described in any Chinese artwork. On the contrary, early in the 16th century, this great architecture was gradually known by Westerners. The earliest record was from a Portuguese writer, saying that there was a long and solid wall in China with a heavy garrison. In 1575, a Spanish envoy also commended the grand wall when he got back to Europe. In 1793, a British painter’s picture marked the first appearance of the Great Wall in Western paintings. Since the 19th century, the Wall gradually won popularity among tourists.

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