50 Facts About the Great Wall of China

50 facts about the great wall of china

Across the Northern part of China lies a sleeping dragon made of brick and stone. This Great Wall is a symbol of the ancient Chinese civilization and is considered one of the most magnificent, and oldest man-made architectures on Earth. Initially serving as a military defense to fend off invading Nomadic minorities, now the wall is a must-see tourist attraction in the country. Read on to learn 50 facts about the Great Wall of China. 

Fact 1: The Great Wall of China is one of the 7 new wonders of the world.

  • With more than 27 centuries of history, it remains one of the most magnificent man-made architectures in the world. 

Fact 2:  The Great Wall’s length is equal to half the length of the equator. The wall is 21,196.18 km. 

  • Without a doubt, the Great Wall of China is the longest feat of human engineering. 

Fact 3: The length of the Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) is 8,851.8 kilometers.

  • It is the best-preserved among all sections of the Great Wall, extending from Hushan in Liaoning to Jiayuguan in Gansu.

Fact 4: The average height of the walls is 6 to 7 meters, and the highest point is 14 meters.

  • However, the wall is becoming shorter and shorter day by day mainly due to human activities and natural erosion.

Fact 5: The wall’s highest point is the Huanglouyuan in the northwest suburb of Beijing, with an elevation of 1,439.3 meters. 

  •  Meanwhile, the lower point is at Laolongtou in Hebei, just above sea level.

Fact 6: The Chinese name for the Great Wall of China is “Changcheng”.

  • It literally means “long wall” or “long walls.”

Fact 7: The Great Wall of China is the longest wall on Earth.

  •  It’s main-line is nearly three times the length of Britain.

Fact 8: The Great Wall of China spans across 15 regions in North China.

  • These are Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Inner Mongolia, Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shandong, Henan, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, and Xinjiang.

Fact 9: The wall is about 2,700 years old.

  • Construction of the wall occurred somewhere between 300-200 BC. 

Fact 10: More than 1,000,000 laborers were recruited for the construction of the Great Wall of China. 

  •  Unfortunately, a lot of these workers were buried within the walls as well. 

Fact 11: The Great Wall is a staple tourist attraction in China that attracts 50 million visitors every year. 

  •  In fact, it has been visited by more than 460 state heads and VIPs from around the world.

Fact 12: The Great Wall is not just made up of one long wall, but a Collection of Walls.

  • It is a defensive network consisting of many walls and forts built in different historical periods, with some segments scattering while some running parallel. 

Fact 13: Emperor Qin Shi Huang is often referred to as the initiator of the Great Wall.

  • It was the Emperor who first commanded the linking of the separate sections of the wall, that were built by previous states. 

Fact 14: The Great Wall you see today isn’t as old as you think. 

  • In fact, many of its sections have been renovated and developed into tourist resorts such as the sections on Badaling, Mutianyu in Beijing and Shanhaiguan in Hebei. These renovated parts are around 400 to 600 years old.  

Fact 15: The Chinese used glutinous rice to bind the wall’s bricks and stones.

  • This was done by mixing together a paste of sticky rice flour and slaked lime, which was the standard ingredient in mortar. 

Fact 16: The Great Wall’s construction officially finished in 1644 when the last ruler of the Ming Dynasty was overthrown.

  • The Ming Dynasty ruled China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. 

Fact 17: It will take you roughly 18 months to walk across the Great Wall of China.

  • That’s just as ambitious as tackling the entire 1,800 miles from the Gobi Desert to the Yellow Sea.

Fact 18: It took over 2000 years to complete the structure of the wall. 

  • During these years, many imperial dynasties and kingdoms built, rebuilt, and extended the walls.  

Fact 19: The Great Wall of China got its official name in the 19th century, prior to that it was only known as a “barrier”.

  • It has had various names such as the “Frontier”, “ramparts”, “barrier” and “the outer fortresses”. 

Fact 20: The most dangerous section of the wall is the Jiankou section.

  • Interestingly, it’s also the most photographed section of the wall due to its steep mountains, stunning scenery and unique construction style. 

Fact 21: You can find numerous temples along the Great Wall of China. 

  •  The temples were built to worship the god of war, Guandi. 

Fact 22: There are around 7000 lookout towers on the Great Wall.

  • Moreover, it is estimated that over 1 million soldiers guarded the great wall during the height of the Ming Dynasty.

Fact 23:  During the construction of the wall, the Chinese invented the wheelbarrow. 

  •  Although, the exact date and the actual inventor’s name both seem to be lost to history. 

Fact 24: Gunpowder was also invented by the Chinese during the construction of the wall. 

  • It was used to defend the wall from invaders.  

Fact 25: The last battle that was fought at the Great Wall of China was the “Sino-Japanese War” in 1938.

  • The second Sino-Japanese war was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan from July 7, 1937, to September 2, 1945. 

Fact 26: The highest point of the Great Wall of China is on Heita Mountain.

  • The mountain is in Beijing and stands 5,033 feet above sea level. 

Fact 27: A few tour operators also arrange night tours when the wall is illuminated with lines of lights.

  • Tourists can stay overnight in the beautiful water town, at the Simatai section of the Great Wall. 

Fact 28: There’s a myth that you can see the Great Wall from the moon with your naked eyes. 

  • The rumour originated in the early 19th century, however, it isn’t true. It would be the equivalent of a human trying to see a strand of hair from two miles away!

Fact 29: 1/3 of the Wall has already disappeared. 

  • It is estimated that without effective conservation, the remaining sections of the wall will disappear within 30 years. 

Fact 30: The Chinese people believe that the wall is a personification of the Chinese dragon.

  • Historically, the Chinese dragon was associated with the Emperor of China and was used as a symbol to represent imperial power. 

Fact 31: The wall is one of the most expensive constructions in the world.

  • The exact cost to construct the wall is open to debate, but it was suggested that building the wall costs around $360 billion. 

Fact 32: There are three inner side passes in the Great Wall.

  • These are the Zijingguan pass, Juyongguan pass, and Daomaguan pass.

Fact 33: UNESCO declared the Great Wall of China as a World Heritage site in 1987.

  • Various parts of the wall have all been listed as state or provincial priority protected sites under the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Relics. 

Fact 34: The Great Wall’s lowest point is the Laolongtou.

  • This part of the wall is located in Hebei and is just above sea level.

Fact 35: The Great Wall sadly is also called the longest cemetery in the world. 

  • The labourers comprised of civilians, soldiers, and convicts. Unfortunately, the toilsome work took many lives, reportedly costing the lives of more than 1 million people.  

Fact 36: Parts of the wall are so wide that a car can be driven inside.

  •  On average the wall is 20 feet (6 m) wide across at the base.

Fact 37: The Great Wall labour force included soldiers, forcibly-recruited peasants, convicts, and POWs.

  • Consequently, in the Sui Dynasty (581 – 618 AD), the widows were also forced to work because all the male labourers had died.

Fact 38: A popular Great Wall legend is about the weeping Meng Jiangnv.

  • Meng Jiangnv’s husband lost his life building the wall and it was said that her bitter weeping caused the collapse of one section of the wall, revealing her husband’s remains. 

Fact 39:  Typically, a beacon tower was built every 18 km of the wall. 

  • The beacons enabled fire or smoke signals to pass information, such as news of an incoming attack, quickly along the wall from fortification to fortification. 

Fact 40: Two-storey castles were also built along the wall.

  • The structures were intended for soldiers and guards to store weapons and ammunition. 

Fact 41: Initially, the wall was made with only rammed earth. 

  •  This was a mixture of sand, clay, and soil compacted between wooden frames and allowed to dry and harden.

Fact 42: The Great Wall’s starting point is Jiayuguan located on the Western end of the wall. 

  • Jiayuguan means the “excellent valley pass” in Chinese and is found at the narrowest point of the Hexi Corridor’s Western section. 

Fact 43: The exact spot of the beginning of the Great Wall was the wall’s first beacon tower. 

  •  The beacon tower was built in 1539 but is now just a mound of earth. 

Fact 44: At present, over 400 world leaders have visited the Badaling section of the wall. 

  • This includes President Nixon, President Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth II, PM Margaret Thatcher, President Yeltsin, President Putin, President Mandela and Emperor Akihito.

Fact 45: The film “Great Wall” was directed by the Chinese film director Zhang Yimou and was his first English film.

  •  The film starred Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal and was also the most expensive film ever shot entirely in China.

Fact 46: The Great Wall of China was defended primarily by archers.

  • Since it was too expensive to keep the Wall perpetually manned, sentries along the length of the walls served to warn against impending enemies. 

Fact 47: The most vulnerable section of the wall are the gates. 

  • To keep enemies from entering through the gates, traps were laid between the inner and outer gate. Some gates also led into a labyrinth or a small fortress.   

Fact 48: The Great Wall Marathon is held in the Beijing section of the wall every year. 

  • The event features a full selection of runs including a super marathon which is 45km, full course marathon which is 42.2km, half course marathon which is 21.1km, 10km and the mini-marathon which is 5km. 

Fact 49: There are 13 famous fortification passes along the Great Wall. 

  • They served as the most important fortifications for central China that defended it from the Northern Nomadic minorities.

Fact 50: During the period of the Cultural Revolution in China (1966 to 1976), the Great Wall was seen as a symbol of tyranny. 

  • Consequently, citizens were encouraged to use the wall’s bricks for the construction of their homes resulting in the deterioration of some parts of the wall. 

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