The Great Wall of China – The Background

Destinations — By on 07/03/2011 4:31 pm

map 300x241 The Great Wall of China – The Background

A map of the Great Wall

One of the biggest misconceptions that many travellers have is that the Great Wall of China is one big wall. It is not. The great wall is actually a series of walls and fortifications built to defend ancient China’s borders against northern barbarians. The wall was built in phases, piecemeal fashion over a period of more than 2000 years.

Chinese refer to the wall with pride as on of the greatest wonders of the world. A claim easy to believe when you see it in person. UNESCO have listed the world heritage sight. A largely symbolic gesture considering the immense size and scope of the wall.


The first part of the wall was constructed during the Warring States Period from 5th century BC to the 2nd century BC. The next construction phase was then China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang decided to renovate by demolishing most of the original wall and building a new wall on the remains. These parts of the wall is called the Qin Dynasty walls

The following Han, Sui, Northan and Jin dynasties could not resist remodelling and adding value so they all repaired/rebuilt and extended sections of the wall. Historians estimate that during these stages of construction over 1 million workers died. A significant part of the population at that time.

Wall building then went out of fashion until 14th century when the Ming Dynasty started building again response to the Manchurian and Mongol tribes where making trouble and needed to be kept out. The wall kept the barbarians at bay until 1644 when the Manchus defeated China (a sore point with the locals) and set up the Qing Dynasty.


The sections of the wall stretch for approximately over 8800 kilometers from Lop Nuur salt lakes and marshes system (south east Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region) in the west to Shanhaiguan (Qinhuangdao city in the Hebei.east province) in the east and passes along the border of Inner Mongolia. The terrain the wall passes through ranges from deserts and grasslands to mountains and plateaus.

According to Wikipedia, the great wall is made up of “6,259.6 km (3,889.5 mi) sections of actual wall, 359.7 km (223.5 mi) of trenches and 2,232.5 km (1,387.2 mi) of natural defensive barriers such as hills and rivers.”

Debunking a Myth

For those of you (such as myself) who grew up believing that the wall is visible from the moon, you have been fooled by an old wives tale that began back in the 17th century. The wall at its widest point is just over nine meters wide and barely visible from an aircraft over head. Seeing the wall form the moon is IMPOSSIBLE!!!

pixel The Great Wall of China – The Background
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