Great Wall

Great Wall


Visit places:

Jiayu Guam

Badaling & Juyong Guan

Mutianyu & Huanghua Cheng




Description of the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is a separation wall almost 9000 km long (total length - 21.2 thousand km), built in ancient China and is the largest architectural monument. In Chinese, the word for the project itself (长城, Chángchéng) has also taken on the figurative meaning of "unbending powerful force, insurmountable barrier." The Great Wall of China is mentioned in the National Anthem of the PRC.

The wall runs through northern China for 8851.9 km, and in the Badaling section it is located in close proximity to Beijing (this is the length of the last structure of the Ming Dynasty, and this includes 6259 km of the walls themselves, 359 km of ditches, 2232 km of natural defensive lines in the form hills and rivers).

The length of the wall with all branches is 21,196 kilometers.

The thickness of the Great Wall of China is 5-6 m in the upper part and does not exceed 7 m in the lower part, and the height is on average from 6 to 8 m, reaching a maximum of 16 m.

The construction stretches along the Yinshan mountain range, skirting all the spurs, overcoming both high rises and very significant gorges.

Over the centuries, the wall has changed its name. Initially, it was called "Barrier", "Rampant" or "Fortress". Later, the wall acquired more poetic names, such as "Purple Border" and "Earth Dragon".



The construction of the first sections of the wall began in the 3rd century BC. e. during the Warring States period (475-221 BC) to protect the state from the Xiongnu. One fifth of the then living population of the country, that is, about a million people, took part in the construction. The wall was supposed to clearly fix the boundaries of Chinese civilization, contribute to the consolidation of a single empire, just made up of a number of conquered kingdoms.

The settlements that developed on the plain of central China, turning into large centers of trade, attracted the attention of nomads, who began to often attack them, making raids from behind Yingshan. Large kingdoms such as Qin, Wei, Yan, Zhao attempted to build defensive walls on their northern borders. These walls were adobe structures. The Wei kingdom erects a wall around 353 BC. BC, which served as the border with the kingdom of Qin, the kingdoms of Qin and Zhao build a wall around 300 BC. e., and the kingdom of Yan - about 289 BC. e. The disparate structures of the walls are later connected and form a single structure.

During the reign of Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi (259-210 BC, Qin Dynasty), the empire unites into a single whole, reaches unprecedented power. More than ever, she needs reliable protection from nomadic peoples. Qin Shi Huang orders the construction of the Great Wall of China along Yingshan. During construction, pre-existing parts of the wall are used, which are strengthened, built on, connected by new sections and lengthened, while sections that previously separated separate kingdoms are demolished. The construction of the wall was appointed to manage the commander Meng Tian.

Construction lasted 10 years and faced numerous difficulties. The main problem was the lack of appropriate infrastructure for construction: there were no roads, there was no adequate water and food for those involved in the work, while their number reached 300 thousand people, and the total number of builders involved in Qin reached, according to some estimates, 2 million . Slaves, soldiers, peasants were involved in the construction. As a result of epidemics and overwork, at least tens of thousands of people died. Resentment at the mobilization to build the wall caused popular uprisings and was one of the reasons for the fall of the Qin Dynasty.

The terrain itself was extremely difficult for such a grandiose structure: the wall went straight along the mountain range, skirting all the spurs, while it was necessary to overcome both high rises and very significant gorges. However, this is precisely what determined the unique originality of the structure - the wall is unusually organically inscribed in the landscape and forms a single whole with it.

Until the Qin time, a significant proportion of the wall was built from the most primitive materials, mainly with the help of earth tamping. Layers of clay, pebbles and other local materials were pressed between shields of twigs or reeds. Most of the materials for such walls could be obtained locally. Sometimes bricks were used, but not burnt, but dried in the sun.

Obviously, the popular Chinese name for the wall, “earth dragon,” is associated with building materials. In the Qin period, stone slabs began to be used in some areas, which were laid close to each other over layers of compacted earth. Stone structures were widely used in the construction of the Wall in the east. In the same places where, according to local conditions, the stone was not available (western lands, in the territory of the modern provinces of Gansu, Shaanxi), a large mound was erected.

The dimensions of the wall varied in sections, the average parameters were: height - 7.5 m, height with battlements - 9 m, width along the ridge - 5.5 m, width of the base - 6.5 m. The battlements of the wall, located on the outside, have simple rectangular shape. Towers are part of the wall. Some towers built before the wall was built were built into it. Such towers are often less than the width of the wall itself, and their locations are random. There are about 25,000 towers along the entire length of the wall. The towers erected along with the wall were located at a distance of up to 200 meters from each other (the range of the arrow).

There are several types of towers, differing in architectural design. The most common type of tower is two stories, rectangular in plan. Such towers had an upper platform with loopholes. Also, within sight of the fire (about 10 km), signal towers were located on the wall, from which the enemy's approaches were monitored and signals were transmitted. Twelve gates were made to pass through the wall, which over time fortified into powerful outposts. The last battle near the Great Wall of China took place in 1938 between China and Japan.

During the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), the wall was extended west to Dunhuang. A line of watchtowers was also built, going deep into the desert, to protect trade caravans from nomadic raids. The next dynasty - the Jin - restored and built, according to archaeologists, about 10,000 km of walls - twice as many as the Qin. The Jin Dynasty began building its walls in the 12th century, mobilizing up to 750,000 people at a time for this purpose.

Those sections of the Great Wall that have survived to our time were built mainly during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). In this era, the main building materials were brick and stone blocks, which made the construction more reliable. When laying the stone blocks of the wall, glutinous rice porridge with an admixture of slaked lime was used. During the reign of Ming, the wall stretched from east to west from the Shanhaiguan outpost on the shores of the Bohai Bay (Liaodong Bay, according to other sources) of the Yellow Sea to the Yumenguan outpost at the junction of modern Gansu Province and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.


The Chinese and the Great Wall of China

The constant construction and restoration of the wall exhausted the strength of the people and the state, but its value as a defensive structure was questioned. Enemies, if desired, easily found weakly fortified areas or simply bribed the guards. Sometimes, during attacks, she did not dare to raise the alarm and silently let the enemy pass.

For Chinese scientists, the wall has become a symbol of military weakness during the Ming dynasty, capitulation to the next barbarians. Wang Xitong, a 17th-century historian and poet, wrote:

The Qin people built the Long Wall as a defense against the barbarians.
The long wall grew up, and the empire rolled down.
People still laugh at her...
As soon as it was announced that the walls would be built in the east,
It was necessarily reported that hordes of barbarians attacked in the west ...

After the fall of the Ming Dynasty, the Qing emperor dedicated a poem to her, in which it was written about the wall:

You built it for ten thousand li, stretching to the sea,
But all your expenses were in vain -
You have exhausted the strength of your people.
But when did the empire belong to you?

The Chinese of the Qing era were surprised by the interest of Europeans in a useless structure.

In modern Chinese culture, the wall has taken on a new meaning. Regardless of the failures associated with its military use, it has become a symbol of the resilience and creative power of the people. On several sections of the Great Wall of China, you can find monuments with the phrase of Mao Zedong: "If you have not visited the Great Wall of China, you are not a real Chinese" (Chinese ex. 不到长城非好汉).

The popular athletics marathon "The Great Wall" is held annually, in which athletes run part of the distance along the ridge of the wall.


Destruction and restoration of the wall

Despite many years of efforts, the wall was systematically destroyed and fell into disrepair. During the Qing Empire (1644-1911), the Manchus, having overcome the wall with the help of the betrayal of Wu Sangui, treated the wall with disdain after that.

During the three centuries of Qing rule, the Great Wall almost collapsed under the influence of time. Only a small part of it near Beijing - Badaling - was maintained in order, it served as a kind of "gateway to the capital". In 1899, American newspapers started a rumor that the wall would be completely demolished, and a highway would be built in its place.

In 1984, at the initiative of Deng Xiaoping, a program was launched to restore the Great Wall of China, funded by Chinese and foreign companies, as well as individuals. In the late 1980s, a major art auction took place in Beijing to coincide with the restoration of the wall and was televised in Paris, London and New York. It was preceded by a banquet of Western cultural figures and Chinese dignitaries, at which the artist Armand publicly smashed a violin against a wall in order to assemble a panel from its fragments intended for auction - for which he was booed so that the French delegation had to leave the hall. Armand's works at the auction were ignored by Chinese buyers, so he had to buy them himself in order not to lose his prestige.

Despite the work carried out, the remains of the wall, far from tourist places, are still in a ruined state. Some areas are destroyed when choosing a wall site as a place to build villages or stone from a wall as a building material, others due to the construction of highways, railways and other extended artificial objects. Some areas are covered in graffiti by vandals.

It is reported that a 70-kilometer section of the wall in Minqin County, Gansu Province in the northwest of the country is undergoing active erosion. The reason is the intensive farming practices in China since the 1950s, which have dried up groundwater, and as a result, this region has become the main source and center of powerful sandstorms. More than 40 km of the wall has already disappeared, and only 10 km are still in place, the height of the wall in some places has decreased from five to two meters.

In 2007, on the border of China and Mongolia, William Lindsey discovered a significant section of the wall, which was attributed to the period of the Han Dynasty. In 2012, the search for further fragments of the wall by the expedition of William Lindsey culminated in the discovery of a lost section already in Mongolia.

In 2012, a 36-meter-long section of the wall, located in Hebei Province, collapsed due to heavy rains. No one was hurt in the collapse. It happened on August 6, but the official announcement appeared only four days later.


Myths about the wall

Wall - "remake"
It is not uncommon to find statements that the wall was built relatively recently, in the 16th, 19th or even 20th century. But this is just an illusion, caused by the fact that the wall has an uneven height, masonry structure, was destroyed in some places and was constantly reconstructed, and its indicative part near Beijing, which is visited by tourists, was generally restored using modern technologies in the middle of the 20th century.

Visibility of the wall from the moon
One of the earliest references to the myth of the wall being visible from the moon is in a 1754 letter from the English antiquarian William Stukeley. Stukeley wrote: “This huge wall 128 km long (we are talking about Hadrian’s Wall) is surpassed only by the China Wall, which takes up so much space on the globe, and in addition it is visible from the moon.” Sir Henry Norman, an English journalist and politician, also mentions this. In 1895, he reports: "... besides its age, this wall is the only creation of man that is visible from the moon." At the end of the nineteenth century, the topic of the Martian canals was exaggerated with might and main, which may have led to the idea that long thin objects on the surface of the planets are distinguishable far from space. The visibility of the Great Wall of China from the moon was also heard in 1932 in the popular American comics Ripley's Believe It or Not! and in the 1938 book Second Book of Marvels by an American traveler Richard Halliburton. Richard Halliburton.

This myth has been exposed more than once, but has not yet been eradicated from popular culture. The maximum width of the wall is 9.1 meters, and it is about the same color as the ground on which it is located. Based on the resolution of optics (the ratio of the distance to the object to the diameter of the entrance pupil of the optical system - a few millimeters for the human eye and several meters for large telescopes), only an object that is contrasting with the surrounding background and has a size of 10 kilometers or more in diameter ( which corresponds to 1 arc minute) can be seen with the naked eye from the Moon, the average distance from which to the Earth is 384,393 kilometers. The approximate width of the Great Wall of China, when viewed from the moon, would be the same as a human hair when viewed from a distance of 3.2 kilometers. To see the wall from the moon would require vision 17,000 times better than normal. Not surprisingly, none of the astronauts who have been to the Moon have ever reported seeing a wall while on the surface of our satellite.

Visibility of the wall from Earth orbit
More debatable is whether the Great Wall of China is visible from orbit (that's over 200 km above the ground). According to NASA, the Wall is barely visible, and only under ideal conditions. It is no more visible than other artificial structures. Some authors argue that due to the limited optical capabilities of the human eye and the distance between the photoreceptors on the retina, the wall cannot be seen even from low orbit with the naked eye, which would require vision 7.7 times sharper than normal.

Astronaut William Pogue, while aboard Skylab, initially thought he saw a wall, but it turned out he saw the Grand Canal of China near Beijing. He was able to see the wall with binoculars, but noted that without it the wall was indistinguishable. Astronaut and US Senator Edwin Garn claimed to have seen the wall with the naked eye from orbit while aboard the Space Shuttle in 1985, but his claim has been questioned by several astronauts. Eugene Cernan also stated: "From the Earth's orbit at a height of 160 to 320 kilometers, the Great Wall of China is indeed visible to the naked eye." Edward Lu, crew member of the International Space Station ISS-7, added that “it is less visible than many other objects. And you definitely need to know where to look.”

In 2001, Neil Armstrong stated of his time aboard Apollo 11: “I do not believe, at least as far as my own eyes are concerned, that there is any man-made object that I could see. And I don’t know anyone who would admit to me that they saw the Great Wall of China from the earth’s orbit ... I asked different people, especially guys who flew over China many times in the daytime, and none of them saw it.”

In October 2003, Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei stated that he had not been able to see the Great Wall of China. In response, the European Space Agency issued a press release stating that from an orbit with an altitude of 160 to 320 kilometers, the wall is still visible to the naked eye. In an attempt to clarify this issue, the European Space Agency released a photograph of part of the Great Wall of China taken from space. However, a week later they admitted their mistake (instead of a wall in the photo there was one of the rivers).

Leroy Chiao, a US-Chinese astronaut, took a photo of the wall from the International Space Station. She was so indistinguishable that Chiao was not even sure if he photographed her. Based on this photo, the China Daily reported that the wall could be seen from space with the naked eye if viewing conditions are favorable and if you know where to look. However, the resolution of a camera can be much greater than that of the human visual system, there are different optics, and photographic evidence cannot be an answer to the question of the possibility of distinguishing the Wall with the human eye.


Great Wall Museum of China

The museum was built in 1994 as part of the "Love China, Save the Great Wall" patriotic campaign launched by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1984. It is located on a 10-meter terrace, about 400 meters from the entrance to the Badaling site. It has been under renovation since 2022. By June 22, 2022, his 5,741 cultural artifacts had been moved to nearby district cultural institutions in Yanqing.

General planning for the improvement of the museum began in early 2020. The main purpose of the renovation is to better showcase the history of the Great Wall of China and house artefacts found in the building from the Warring States period (475-221 BC) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). After the renovation, three main areas of the site will be open to the public: the exhibit hall, the visitor center, and the Great Wall International Research and Exchange Institute. It is expected that after the completion of the renovation works, the area of the museum will be 16,000 square meters.

After the renovation, the museum also plans to focus on research to promote the "spirit of the Great Wall" and improve the institution's research, education and communication functions. The goal is to turn the museum into a center for observing the heritage of the Great Wall, learning about the culture of the wall, displaying the structure's intangible cultural heritage, and developing related cultural and creative projects.



According to legend, a huge dragon pointed out the direction and place of construction of the wall to the workers. He walked along the borders of the country, and the workers erected a wall in the place of his footprints. Some argue that even the very shape that the wall formed bears a resemblance to a soaring dragon.

The most famous legend is that of Meng Jiangnu, the wife of a peasant who was forced to work on the wall during the Qin Dynasty. When the sad news reached the woman that her husband was buried in the wall, she arrived at that place and wept so bitterly that from her crying the part of the wall where the remains of her husband were hidden collapsed, opening them to her gaze. In Qinhuangdao there is a temple of Meng Jiangnu, in front of which her sculpture is installed. The well-known Soviet and Russian sinologist B. L. Riftin devoted a detailed monograph to this legend, for which he was awarded the degree of candidate of philological sciences in 1961.