The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications built along the historical northern border of Chinese Empire in order to protect it against the raids of Eurasian invaders.
Its construction was initiated in 221 BC by King Zheng of Qin who unified China and became its First Emperor. In order to build such enormous structure, he connected parts of previous fortifications present on those areas dated back to the 7th century! However, today little of this wall remains, as the materials used to build it were rather perishable – wood, stones and rammed earth, with glutinous rice flour often used to make the binding material.
What comes to our minds when we think of the Great Wall of China today is the brick construction from the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). It is estimated that almost 1/3 of the Wall has already disappeared, due to natural erosion and human interference – during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), people were stealing bricks from the Great Wall in order to build homes and farms.
The Great Wall of China in numbers:
- Total length: 21,196.18 km (13,170.70 miles)
- Age: the oldest parts are over 2,700 years old.
- The average height: 6-7 meters (20-23 feet).
- The highest point: 14 meters (46 feet) high.
- The average width: 6.5 meters (21.3 feet)
- Construction started due to a prophecy
The First Emperor Qin Shi Huang was known for his struggles to attain immortality. The has sent out countless expeditions to search for sources of endless life, all in vain. One however brought back something sinister – a prophecy that Quin will be overturned by the nomads from the north. To avoid it, Qin ordered to build the Great Wall. However, it didn’t save him from death. He died at the age of 50 due to ingesting mercury, which he ironically regarded as an elixir of immortality.
- It cannot be seen from space
A popular rumor claims that The Great Wall of China is the only man-made construction that can be seen from space with a naked eye. Which is completely false. Yes, the Great Wall can be seen from space, but only in radar images. And if we lower the “space” to the lower Earth orbit, there are a lot of human-constructed objects visible: highways, airports, cities and even large vehicles such as ships and planes. But the Wall itself is barely visible – as it is constructed from materials that perfectly blends into its surroundings.
- The longest cemetery in the world
The builders of the Great Wall often came from peasants, disgraced noblemen and convicts Condition on the constructing sites were harsh and many of them died. The historians estimated that from 400,000 to around 1 million people have died building the wall. According to legend many of them were buried alongside or even in the Great Wall itself! Because of this, it’s sometimes referred to as the longest cemetery in the world. However, so far no corpses have been found.
- The Cry of Meng Jiang Nu
Connected with the previous fact is one of the most popular legends about the Great Wall. Meng Jiang Nu was a wife of a farmer, Fan Xiliang, who was forced to work on the wall. When he died, she came and wept until the wall collapsed, revealing his bones, so she could bury them properly.
- It didn’t stop the Mongols
Despite a popular believe the Great Wall didn’t stop the Mongols. Because the Great Wall was discontinuous, Mongols led by Genghis Khan simply rode around it. They subsequently conquered most of northern China in the 13th century.
- A Chinese dragon
According to a legend, the Great Wall was traced out with a help of a dragon. The wall itself has often been compared to a dragon – a protective divinity of China, representing wisdom and vital forces. Also the place near the Shanhai Pass where the wall meets the Bohai Sea is nicknamed „Old Dragon’s Head.”