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Fun Facts About the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is a well-recognized national symbol of the Asian nation. The Wall, although not one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is often listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Medieval World. For visitors, the Wall is almost a pilgrimage into China's history.

Fun Facts About the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall is not one long continuous structure. Instead, it is a network of wall segments built throughout China's various dynasties to protect the northern border.

  • When the Great Wall was under construction, locals referred to it as the longest cemetery because so many lives were lost while it was built.
  • The Great Wall is the longest man-made structure in the world.
  • The main wall is approximately 2,145 miles long with more than 1,700 miles of spurs.
  • The wall was constructed from stone, brick, and rice flour mortar.
  • The legend that the mortar was constructed from human bone is a myth.
  • Another legend suggests that a dragon traced out the course of the Great Wall, which is why it weaves.
  • Tianwang, the God of the Heavens, can be found in reliefs all along the Great Wall.
  • Among the manpower to build the wall were peasants, frontier guardsmen, intellectuals, and disgraced noblemen.
  • During the Qin and Han dynasties, convicts were sent to build the wall as part of their punishment.
  • The wheelbarrow is actually a Chinese invention and was used during the construction of the Great Wall.
  • Visitors to Beijing will find the closest section of the Great Wall in the province of Badaling.
  • The Badaling segment was the first section to open to tourists in 1957.
  • Nixon visited the Great Wall in Badaling when he was in China.
  • The Badaling section marked the end of the 2008 Summer Olympics cycling course.
  • Despite a persistent myth, the Wall cannot be seen from the moon without visual aid.
  • Genghis Khan circumvented the discontinuous sections of the wall when he and his Mongol Horde invaded china in 1211.
  • Watchtowers are placed intermittently along the Great Wall. These housed garrisons and supplies.
  • Torches could be lit from one watchtower to another as a way of sending signals.
  • Watchtowers along the Wall were used to protect traders on China's "silk road."
  • A million men defended the Wall during the Ming dynasty.
  • The last great battles fought at the Great Wall occurred in the twentieth century.
  • Bullet marks can still be seen on the Wall in the province of Gubeikou, a remnant of the Sino-Japanese war in 1938.

Western Fascination

The Great Wall, while seen by popular culture as representative of China itself, did not actually enter Chinese consciousness until the twentieth century. Western philosophers, artists, and authors idealized the wall for generations before the Chinese.

  • Arthur Walden, a historian, popularized the concept that the Great Wall was one continuous wall.
  • Voltaire, an eighteenth century French philosopher and writer, called The Great Wall of China a monument to Fear.
  • Kafka, an early twentieth century novelist, praised the Great Wall in his short story aptly titled The Great Wall of China.

The Future of the Wall

With more than four million annual visitors, the Great Wall has become a symbol of national pride for China, but a costly one. The government continues to work with the China Great Wall Society and the International Friends of the Great Wall to protect and preserve it for future generations.