The Great Wall of China. What is the Great Wall?. The Great Wall of China is the largest and longest military structure ever recorded. Built to stop incoming invading enemies from the north, the Wall was rebuilt over and over again for over 1,000 years by different dynasties.
The Great Wall of China has a total length of 6,000 kilometers. That’s over 3728 miles.
In Chinese, The Great Wall is called “Wang-Li Ch’ang-Ch’eng”, meaning 10,000 kilometer wall.
Some parts of The Great Wall are in great condition in the East and areas near Beijing.
Areas further west slowly disintegrated due to erosion, poor construction, and material used to build Wall.
Satellite view of The Great Wall of China
During the Zhou Dynasty, Xiongnu tribes attacked northern Chinese states which caused great destruction.
The construction of the Zhou Dynasty was not well built. The purpose of The Wall during this period was to keep out foreign invaders from several states in the early period of China.
Not much is know about the Wall in the Zhou, but according to historical records, the first part of the Great Wall of China was built by Chu State. They constructed their wall into a “U” shape, which was meant to protect their state’s perimeter.
Overall, the Wall during this period was very weak. Knowledge of building walls was poor. The walls were made from wood, mud and stones.
Ruins of a Zhou Dynasty wall.
Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor of China and is considered as the first Great Wall builder. He was also known as a tyrant and forced men into building the Wall under harsh conditions. It is estimated that over 3 million people were involved. Those 3 million people were over 70% of China’s population at that time.
Local materials were used to make the walls, similar to the walls in the Zhou Dynasty. The Zhou people used compacted earth to build the walls.
The oldest section of the Great Wall during the Qin Dynasty was begun in 221 B.C. The construction of it was almost a link, connecting all of the previous and older walls. The length of all the walls during this period was about 5,000 kilometers.
According to early Chinese historical records, the Qin Great Wall was built in a 10 year period, making 25 miles of wall every month. The estimated cost to build the Qin Great Wall today would be $260 billion.
Qin Dynasty Wall built using the tamped-earth process.
Han Wu-Di is the emperor of this dynasty and expanded China’s boundaries into Central Asia. He is the second Great Wall builder.
Workers during the Han Dynasty were rebuilding the old crumbling Qin walls and extend the Great Wall 480 kilometers all the way through the Gobi Desert.
The material used for construction was quite different. Instead of compacted earth, a mixture of water, gravel, and willow reeds were used. The major contribution of the Han Great Wall was the watchtowers which provided great vision and coverage of the land.
Watchtowers were the key privilege of detecting enemy invasion. They were spaced 15 to 30 miles apart and alerted sentries to spread message of attack. The Chinese used smoke to send messages. The number of columns related to the attacking force. For example, one column burned would mean an attack of a force of 500 or less. So the more columns burned, the more enemy troops.
Han Dynasty Wall built by using water, gravel, and willow reeds.
The Ming Dynasty is considered the greatest of all Great Wall builders. The walls built by these people were larger, longer and more durable than any other dynasty. Like previous dynasties, they rebuilt the old, crumbling Han walls and lengthened it to 6,400 kilometers.
The greatest achievement of the Ming Great Wall is the quality, precision, and placement of the material. The people making the walls at this time used kiln-fired bricks rather than cutting individual stones. They were high quality and could last centuries.
The Ming Wall crosses dangerous terrain and some places the Wall rises a 70 degree angle.
Weaponry was also bought for the Wall. China purchased cannons from the Portuguese traders and mounted them on watchtowers.
It took around 200 years to complete the Ming Wall. With thousands of forts and towers, almost a million men guarded the boundaries. The total cost of the Ming Great Wall would be approximately $360 billion.
Ming Dynasty Wall built from kiln-fired bricks.
The Simatai Section is located east of Jin Shan Ling and is also a defense barrier like the Badaling section.
About 5.4 kilometers long and having 35 watchtowers, this section is steep to keep out enemies from grappling over the wall.
The Simatai Wall was constructed under the supervision of QiJiguang, a very famous general in the Ming Dynasty.
Walls in the Simatai have some sort of awkward structure and intactness. It has many attractions such as the Stairway to Heaven, the Fairy Tower, and others.
Great elevation gives a great strategic location for the Simatai section.
The Badaling section of the Great Wall was built at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty. Built the safeguard the capital of Beijing, it is known as the most important strategic point of the Great Wall.
With battle forts almost everywhere, height also provided a strategy. With walls almost 8 meters in height and 5 meters wide, the top of the wall is paved to allow six horses or ten soldiers to march side by side.
An interesting part of the Badaling section is the Pass of Conscripted Laborers. The gateway is believed to be named for workers and slaves conscripted to build the Great Wall.
Designs are seen carved into the wall and contains carvings of elephants, birds, lions, kings, flowers, and charms written in six different languages.
Badaling section leading into the mountains.