Imposing mountains, vast deserts, high-rise skyscrapers, beautiful monasteries, intriguing legends, and incredible myths– the list goes on when we talk about China and the things it offers. The fourth largest country is one of the most historically and culturally vibrant nations in the world and is also a great place to visit for travel buffs.
However, two things top the list whenever we talk about the land of China.
The first of these is something whose stories we all have enjoyed as children– dragons. And the second thing is one that is the epitome of human engineering– The Great Wall of China. The present blog is about the latter.
The Great Wall is the most popular tourist attraction in China, and why not? It is a marvel of Chinese civilization and a significant historic structure. Everyone knows something about the Great Wall of China. But the question is, how much?
Many facts and stories are centered around this phenomenal structure, and we will shortly tell you about some of the most interesting ones. Read on to learn about ten fun facts about the Great Wall of China, and see how many you already know about. Let’s start!
The Greatest Wall
The Great Wall is not just great, as we call it. It is the greatest Wall of not only China but also the world. In fact, it is the longest man-made structure ever built in the history of humanity.
The total length of the Wall is over 21,196 kilometers (or 13,170 miles). If you don’t get the feel of this figure just by reading it, let us give you a new perspective. Through this distance, you can travel from Beijing to Chicago by air and return while still having more than 20 kilometers to spare.
Not a ‘wall’
This mighty Wall of China is not really true to its name. It is great, no doubt. But is it a wall? Not quite. It is not as much a wall as a series of connected, overlapping, and occasionally disconnected fortifications that were built to defend the northern borders of the nation from invaders.
The oldest sections of the fortified walls were built separately as early as the 7th Century BCE by the different states of ancient China. Some parts of these sections were later connected and extended along the northern borders during the reign of Qin Shi Huang. The Wall was further extended over the course of centuries by the various successive rulers of China.
The Great Grave of China
The longest Wall in the world is also considered the longest grave. According to various estimates by historians and researchers, close to a million people were involved in the Wall’s construction for around 2000 years, and about half of them perished building it.
In other words, at least 400,000 people are estimated to have died while constructing The Great Wall of China. The reason for so many deaths? First, many laborers were either enemies or condemned criminals, so they obviously weren’t treated healthily. Secondly, the work was not simple. The laborers had to travel long distances carrying heavy weights– not healthy at all.
(In)Visible from the moon
Most of us have grown up being told that the Wall of China can be seen clearly from the moon. If you still believe it, here comes a big revelation of your life – you were told wrong!
From the moon, locating the Great Wall is similar to locating a strand of hair from a distance of 3 kilometers – literally invisible. If you were fed this rumor, you were not alone. Arguably, half of the world still believes this claim. However, viewing the Wall from a lower earth orbit is possible.
Writings on the bricks
The workers of some sections of the Wall left some text on the bricks. These brick texts are extensively found in the Simatai Great Wall – an eastern section of the Great Wall constructed during the reign of the Ming Dynasty.
The texts were a type of quality tracking and managing system that helped assess the bricks’ quality. They contain several pieces of information such as production location, brick type, and officials in charge. This way, any quality issue could be addressed effectively.
Given the size and hype of the Great Wall, we usually believe that it would provide great protection from enemies. But in reality, the Great Wall of China was not as successful in keeping enemies at bay as you might believe.
Well, the Wall did its job of keeping out many intruders. But it was not always successful in blocking some powerful armies. Genghis Khan’s army could invade through the walls in the 13th century, and so were the Manchus, who attacked China in 1644 and overthrew the Ming Dynasty.
Dragon – the chief architect
The appearance of the dragon is prevalent in most Chinese legends. Likewise, The dragon also finds a place in some of the legends surrounding The Great Wall of China.
According to a legend, a dragon showed the designated path to the builders. The builders just constructed the Wall along the path shown by the dragon, which is how the Great Wall came to be in the form we see today. Of course, this is an amazing story and nothing else.
The legend of Men Jiangnu
We cannot stop mentioning myths and legends while talking about ancient China; after all, that has to be stand out among all the fun facts about the Great Wall of China. So, here is another legend about how a woman’s sorrow made the wall collapse:
According to the legend, a man named Fan Xiliang was taken away from his wife, Men Jiangnu – just three days after their marriage – to construct the Wall. After missing her husband for so many days, Men Jiangnu went to visit him when she came to know that he had died during the construction and had been buried inside the Wall.
She cried, and cried, and cried, so much so that the Wall finally collapsed to reveal her husband’s bones.
Unexpected building materials
Most of the materials initially used in constructing the Great Wall of China were quite ordinary– stones, earth, and gravel. But some of the ingredients found in the Wall are a bit unexpected.
During the rule of the Ming Dynasty, the mortar for the Wall was prepared by mixing slaked lime with sticky rice. However weird it might seem, the reason behind the usage of sticky rice is quite simple– its stickiness.
The mixture of amylopectin (found in sticky rice) and calcium carbonate (slaked lime) made the Ming-built sections of the Wall the strongest.
The Wall is vanishing
While we’re discussing fun facts about the Great Wall of China here, this one might appear to be the contrary. The Great Wall is great, but it used to be even greater in the old days. Throughout its history of 2,700 years, the Wall has stood the test of time but is slowly vanishing nevertheless.
No significant restoration work has been done on the Wall since 1644. As such, the Wall stands but might not stand much longer. The current length of the Wall (21,196 kilometers) is just two-thirds of the original length. In other words, a third of the Wall’s original length has already disappeared, and the remaining part is also prone to deterioration.
The Great Wall of China needs to be taken care of.
Before you go
The Great Wall is one of the world’s seven wonders, and truly so. Undoubtedly, it is also the most famous historical monument in China that attracts tens of thousands of tourists from all over the world.
But many interesting things remain unknown to most people, so we prepared this interesting blog for you so you can expand your knowledge and learn more about this massive structure. Out of the ten fun facts about the Great Wall of China we uncovered today, which one managed to surprise you the most? Tell us in the comments below!
Also, if reading about the wonders of the world is something you enjoy, we’re sure you’d love our blog on the Pyramid of Giza as well.