Longest Monument. Great Wall of China.

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is a grand architectural monument and China’s most famous landmark, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Length of the Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China stretches across the northern regions of the People’s Republic of China, through 17 provinces: from Liaoning to Qinghai.

Including all branches measured in 2008, the length of the Great Wall of China in its present state is 8,850 to 8,851.9 km (5,500 miles).

According to archaeological research, the results of which were made public in 2012, the historical length of the Great Wall of China is 21196 km (13170.7 miles).

Measuring the monument is complicated by the fact that some of the historic sections are complex in shape, separated by natural landscape barriers, or have been partially or completely eroded, dismantled by local residents.

History of the construction of the Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

Construction of the Great Wall of China began in the 3rd century B.C., during the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.) to protect against nomads. At the same time, the technology of building fortifications was used even earlier – in the VIII-V centuries B.C.

The population of Qin, Wei, Yan and Zhao kingdoms participated in the construction of the northern defensive walls, with a total of about one million people involved in the work. The first built sections were earthen and even earthen – local materials were pressed. The early defensive plots between kingdoms were also combined to create a common wall.

In the first centralized state under the Qin Shi Huang Emperor (from 221 B.C.) the early sections were fortified, completed, the single wall lengthened and the walls between the former kingdoms demolished: all forces were aimed at creating a continuous fortification along the Yingshan mountain range to protect against raids. At that time, the total number of mobilized builders of the wall reached nearly 2 million; because of the harsh working conditions and poor infrastructure, the mortality rate was increasing. Builders of the time continued to use primitive pressed materials and sun-dried bricks. In some rare sections, for the most part in the east, stone slabs also began to be laid for the first time.

With such a heterogeneous terrain, the height of the wall also varied in its various sections. The average height of the fortifications was 7.5 m, and taking into account the rectangular merlons, it was about 9 m high, 5.5 m wide at the bottom and 4.5 m wide at the top. The towers, which were built at the same time at an arrow distance from each other (about 200 m) and the earlier towers included in the wall in a random order, became an integral part of the wall. The grand fortress wall also included signal towers, towers with loopholes, and 12 gates.

During the Han dynasty (206 BC – 3rd century AD), the Great Wall of China continued westward to Dunhuang. According to the estimates of archeologists, during this period about 10000 km of fortifications were restored and built, which included new watchtowers on the desert section, where protection of trade caravans from nomads was required.

The next period of wall construction described in historical sources is the twelfth century, the ruling dynasty – Jin. However, the sections built at that time were mainly located to the north of the early wall, within the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia and in the territory of modern Mongolia.

The surviving Great Wall of China was mostly built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Durable stone blocks and bricks were used to build the fortifications, and a mixture of rice gruel and burnt lime was used as a binding agent. During the long period of Ming rule, the fortress wall stretched from east to west from Shanhaiguan outpost on the bank of the Bohai Bay to Yumenguan outpost, situated on the modern border of Gansu province and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. These outposts from the sea to the desert are still marked as the beginning and the end of the Great Wall of China.

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Interesting facts about the Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

  • Since 1957, more than 300 statesmen from around the world have managed to visit the Badaling tourist site. The first of the foreigners was revolutionary Klim Voroshilov.
  • Since 1999, The Great Wall Marathon along the equipped section of the wall has become an annual event. It involves 2,500 athletes from more than 60 countries.
  • The visual distinction of the Great Wall of China from space is a common myth. The misconception that the wall can be seen from the moon with the naked eye has now been disproved. Visibility from Earth orbit is still unconfirmed, photographs of the Great Wall of China from space can not serve as evidence, as the resolution of the used cameras is higher than the capabilities of human visual system.

Sections of the Great Wall of China

Only a small part of the Great Wall is permanently available to tourists. The restored sections near Beijing are designed for mass tourism.

Badaling

The Badaling section was built during the Ming Dynasty and was comprehensively restored under Mao Zedong. It is the first section of the Great Wall of China open to the public. It is about 50 kilometers long. Thus, tourism on Badaling has been developing since 1957, and now it is the famous and most visited section, also because of its location – only 70 km from Beijing, connected to the capital by bus and train express trains.

Entrance fee: 45 CNY from April to October, 40 CNY from November to March.

Opening hours: 6:40 am to 6:30 pm.

Mutyanyu

This is the second closest section of the Great Wall to Beijing (about 80 km from the city center) and also a very popular one, 2.2 km long. Mutiangyu is located behind the Huairou district and is connected with Jiankou in the west and Lianhuachi in the east. The foundation of this site is older than Badaling: the first wall was built in the VI century under the Northern Qi, on the surviving base of the wall was built in the Ming dynasty. In 1569, Mutyanyu was rebuilt and the site has been perfectly preserved to this day and is surrounded by forests and streams. Another feature of Mutianyu is the large number of stair sections.

The entrance fee is 40 CNY, for seniors from 60 years old and children 1.2-1.4 m tall – 20 CNY. Children under 1.2 m are free.

Mode of operation: second half of March to mid-November from 7:30 to 18:00 (on weekends – until 18:30), other days of the year – from 8:00 to 17:00.

Shimatai

The 5.4 km long section of Simatai is 145 km from the center of Beijing. There are 20 well-preserved watchtowers in the western part of this section. The eastern wall has a steep slope, due to the rugged terrain with cliffs. The total number of towers in Simatai is 35.

There are fewer restorations on Simatai, but the route is also more difficult. Of particular interest are the towers; Heavenly Bridge – a section up to 40 cm wide; Heavenly Stairs – climbing at an angle of 85 degrees. The most extreme sections are closed to tourists.

Entrance fee – 40 CNY for an adult, 20 CNY for a child 1.2 – 1.5 m tall. Free – children under 1.2 m.

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Opening hours (daytime and evening shifts): April-October from 8:00 to 18:00 and 10:00 to 22:00; November-March from 8:00 to 17:30 (weekends to 21:30) and 17:30 to 21:30.

Gubeikou .

Basically a “wild” and unrestored section of wall in the Gubeikou area 146-150 km from Beijing. Built during the Ming Dynasty on the foundations of the ancient 6th century wall, it has not been rebuilt again since the 16th century, and has kept its authentic appearance, although not as impressive as Shimatai and Jinshalin.

Gubeikou City Wall in the area is divided into two parts – Wohushan (4.8 km, the main attraction – “Sister Towers”) and Panlongshan (about 5 km, notable “24-eye tower” – with 24 observation holes).

The entrance fee is 25 CNY.

Opening hours are 8:10 am to 6 pm.

Jinshalin

Located in the mountainous area of Luanping County, 156 km from central Beijing by road. Jinshaling is connected to Simatai in the east and Mutianyu in the west.

Jinshaling wall is 10.5 kilometers long and includes 67 towers and 3 signal towers.

The initial section of the wall has been restored, but its overall condition is close to natural, gradually deteriorating.

Entrance fee: from April to October – 65 CNY, from November to March – 55 CNY.

Opening hours: April to October from 6:00 to 18:00, November to March from 7:00 to 17:00.

Huanghuachen

Huanghuachen is the only lakeside part of the Great Wall of China on the outskirts of Beijing. The distance from the city center is about 80 km. This is an interesting hiking route, especially picturesque in summer. The wall at Lake Haoming has been under construction since 1404 for 188 years. Now this section reaches 12.4 km, in some places segments of masonry walls submerged in water.

The entrance fee is 45 CNY. Children under 1.2 m are free.

Opening hours: April through October weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; weekends, May 1-7 and October 1-7 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; November through March from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Huangyaguan Pass.

Huangyaguan, or Huangya Pass, built along the mountains, stretches 42 km from General Pass in Beijing to Malan Pass in Hebei, originally included 52 watchtowers and 14 signal towers. However, due to a lack of repair, much of this wall has been destroyed. Since 2014, about 3 km of the structure and 20 towers have been restored. Among the attractions are the Widow’s Tower, the ancient part of the Northern Qi dynasty wall at the end of the Hanya Sky staircase, and the Great Wall Museum.

The distance to Huangyagang from the center of Beijing is about 120 km.

The entrance fee is 85 CNY. Children from 1.2 to 1.5 m – 45 CNY Children under 1.2 m are free.

Open to tourists from 7:30 to 18:00.

Shanhaiguan

An iconic part of the wall: this is where one of its ends, the Dragon’s Head, is located, going into the Yellow Sea. It is located 15 km from Qinhuangdao and 305 km from Beijing.

The plan of the Shankhaiguan fortress is in the form of a square with a perimeter of about 7 km (4.5 miles) with gates on each side. The eastern wall was the main line of defense of the pass, known as the “First Passage Under the Sky”.

Admission to the Old Town in the fortress, the Museum of the Great Wall of China is free. “First pass under the sky” – 40 CNY from May to October, 15 CNY from November to March.

Opening hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. from May to October, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from November to April. The museum is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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Purple marble wall sections

The purple marble fortifications of the Great Wall of China are considered the strongest and most beautiful. They are made of locally mined marble. Two sites are near the city of Jiang’an, another one is in the Yangshan Mountains. It is hardly possible to check the information in practice: the listed walls are closed for mass tourism.

How to get to the Great Wall of China

The most accessible area in terms of transport is Badaling. However, it is also possible to reach other parts of the Great Wall on your own.

To visit the most inaccessible areas or to saturate the trip with other sights, it is worth looking into ready-made and customized tours from Beijing to the Great Wall of China and other sites.

How to get to the Great Wall of China from Beijing

Great Wall of China

You can get from Beijing to Badaling by transport:

  • bus No. 877 (express from Deshengmen stop, 12 CNY);
  • Public bus 919 (takes longer, with stops, you have to check if it goes to Badaling;
  • Train S2 from Huangtudian Station, then take a free bus to Badalin’s cable car station;
  • special tourist buses: from Qianmen, East Bridge, Xizhimen Gate stops, Beijing Railway Station.

There are direct connections from Beijing airport to the Great Wall of China (Badalingina) either by subway/bus + bus or subway/bus + train, or by train transfer, as there are many options for both groups and individual tourists.

Transportation to Mutianyu Wall from Beijing (with a transfer):

  • From Dongzhimen Station, take bus 916 (express or regular) to Huairou North Avenue (Huairou Beidajie);
  • Take transfer bus h23, h24, h35, or h36 to Mutianyu.

Transportation from Beijing to Simatai Wall (with 1 transfer):

  • 980 / 980 Express bus (15 / 17 CNY respectively) from Dongzhimen to Miyun bus station;
  • Then take Mi 51 (8 CNY) to Simatai Village.

To get to Gubeikou from Beijing, take bus express 980 from Dongzhimen to Miyun bus station, then take Mi 25 to your destination.

Jinshaling from Beijing:

  • By subway (line 13 or 15) to West Wangjing, then take tourist bus to destination (departs at 10:00, 11:00, 13:00, 15:30 and returns at 10:30, 11:30, 13:30, 15:00, fare 32 CNY); only relevant during the April to November 15 season;
  • From Dongzhimen take bus no. 980 to Miyun County, then on your own (with a traveling companion, rental car, cab) to Jinshaling.

Huangyaguan from Beijing:

  • Intercity bus to Jizhou (CNY 30-40), then local charter minibus to Hanyaguan (CNY 25-30);
  • train to Jizhou from Beijing Eastern Railway Station (15 CNY), then by charter minibus.

Transportation from Beijing to the Great Wall of China on the Huanghuachen section :

  • From Dongzhimen by a special sightseeing bus running during the peak season from April to October (weekends and holidays). You must buy a round-trip ticket – Huanghuacheng Lakeside Great Wall for 80 CNY;
  • From Dongzhimen, take bus 916 or 916 Express to Huairou Bus Station, then take bus H21 to Small West Lake.

To get to the section of the Great Wall of China Shanhaiguan from Beijing, take the train to Shanhaiguan station, then walk. The train schedule is on the website.

Transfers, cabs from Beijing

To the closest and most popular sections of the wall, it will be convenient to order a shuttle service:

The Great Wall of China – the way through the centuries and the current state and significance

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is the largest architectural monument not only in the Middle Kingdom but in the whole world, one of the new 7 Wonders of the World, the largest structure ever built by man, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

General information

The Great Wall of China is 8,851.9 km long and runs through 17 provinces of northern China. It consists of 6,259 km of walls, 359 km of ditches, and 2,232 km of natural defences in the form of hills and rivers. The historical length of the wall with its branches is 21,196 km.

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Many times the wall changed its name. It was called:

  • a barrier,
  • a rampart,
  • a fortress,
  • the purple border,
  • the land of dragons.

At the end of the nineteenth century it received the name known to this day, the Great Wall of China. “The long wall of 10,000 li” is how the Chinese call the object of national pride. Why did the ancient Chinese need such a large and long fortification? How was the wall built? From whom did it protect the Chinese? Where was the most popular section?

Wall on the map

Answers to the questions have long been obtained, but the interest in the extraordinary object is growing every day. Every year, 40 million people come to China to admire the construction, from the height of which there is a beautiful panorama.

Reasons for the construction of the fortification

Construction of the fortification began in the III century B.C. when China consisted of disparate kingdoms and principalities warring among themselves. Nomadic Hunnu people raided the principalities taking advantage of the internecine feuding. Nomads plundered and killed the inhabitants, and burned down the houses.

The beginning of the wall in the mountains

At this time, called the “Warring Kingdoms era,” the Qin Emperor came to power, uniting the empire into a single state. Marking the borders of the created state and at the same time protecting the people from the raids of nomads, the king built new strong walls.

Difficulties of construction

When Qin Shi Huangdi came to power, the grueling, hard work of building the long wall, which was laid next to hills and mountains, spurs and gorges, smoothly skirting them. Under the Qin Emperor, the Chinese wall was intensively built for ten years.

No flat areas

Two million men were forced to build it, day and night, all year long, building the structure in stone and clay. Peasants, slaves, criminals, even soldiers of the imperial army dragged stone blocks and covered the ground.

Hundreds of thousands of workers died of starvation, lack of drinking water, grueling labor, and epidemics. The dead were buried near the wall and new workers were brought in. The construction was popularly called the longest cemetery in the world.

The end of the wall goes into the sea

For the slightest fault people were sent to heavy construction, strong men were taken away, families were broken, people’s fates were ruined. The people grumbled, and mass revolts against mobilization to work broke out in different regions of the empire. With the last revolt in 1644 under the Ming dynasty, the construction stopped.

What the wall was built of

The Great Wall of China has been under construction for a thousand and a half years, completed, reinforced and repaired. The material was taken from where they built it. At the beginning of construction, they made shields of twigs.

Destruction

They put clay, pebbles and earth in them, rammed them as much as they could, and covered them with earth. Later, stone blocks and unburnt raw bricks were used, shaped in clay and dried in the sun.

Under the Qin emperor, the wall was built with slabs of natural stone. Where no stone was available, the wall was built in the form of an embankment. Since the 14th century, the wall was built using burnt bricks and stone blocks, which were bonded together with a glue of rice flour and burnt lime.

The Construction of the Chinese Wall

The structure is blended into the landscape and forms a single whole with it. The Great Wall of China starts in the city of Shanghai guan, one section runs next to Beijing, and ends in the city of Jiayu guan. The wall runs along the Yingshan mountain range, overcoming the ups and downs, so its width and height are not the same. The walls are 5-9 meters thick and 7-7.5, sometimes 10 meters high.

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The walls are up to 10 m thick

The upper part of the wall is made of rectangular merlons, 1.5 m high. There are brick towers with embrasures in different directions along the wall. There are also armories, observation decks and rooms for guards. There are 60 thousand towers on the wall.

Every 120 meters there was a watchtower, on which sentries stood watch around the clock. The line of watchtowers went deep into the desert: they protected the caravans of traders from the raids of nomadic tribes.

Watchtower

At a distance of 10 km from each other, the towers were complemented by signal towers, from which the sentinels watched the surroundings. In case of danger, they beckoned to their neighbors with a signal fire. There were watchtowers at mountain passes, and fortified towns with garrisons at road junctions.

Inside of the tower

Scholars about the purpose of the Great Wall of China

Scholars still have not reached a consensus on the purpose for which the ancient Chinese built the Great Wall. Here are the opinions of scientists .

  1. The Chinese wall is an unnecessary construction, weakly defending China from nomads. Mongol-Tatars easily crossed the barrier line in empty areas. The height of the barrier did not protect the terrain, and the width of the wall was insufficient to house warriors able to fight there. The patrols let the nomadic detachments through for a reward or in the hope of escaping and did not signal the neighboring towers.
  2. The emperor feared that the people, dissatisfied with life, would rush north to Siberia, and wanted to use the wall to block the refugees.
  3. The wall protected the subjects of the empire from switching to a semi-nomadic way of life and from merging with the barbarians.
  4. There is an opinion that the ancient Chinese wanted to protect themselves from evil spirits by building a wall that wriggled even in an even place. They believed that the spirits moved only straight and therefore did not harm China, which was surrounded by a winding wall.

View from the top in winter time

The Great Wall of China took on a double meaning. On the one hand a symbol of China and on the other hand a symbol of Chinese isolation from the world .

The present state of the wall

The wall needs to be restored. The wall is deteriorating because of heavy rains and storms have covered the masonry. The current Chinese government has imposed a fine for defacing the landmark: tourists take away parts of the wall as souvenirs. Locals dismantle it to build houses. Vandal artists paint the wall with graffiti.

Numerous tourists

Parts of the wall are torn down by decree of the authorities during the construction of railroads or villages. City authorities are restoring the wall and building hiking trails to it. Sections in the vicinity of Beijing, built in the 16th century, are available for tourists to visit.

For the world community, the wall was discovered in 1605 by a European, Bento de Gois. The section of the wall in China hosts annual marathons for runners, guided tours, research work, and reconstructions.

Today’s Chinese people treat the landmark with reverence. Most believe that those who have not been to the Great Wall cannot call themselves a true Chinese.

The Great Wall of China is a symbol of the resilience of the Chinese people, who know no equal in hard work and perseverance. It took thousands of years and millions of human hands to build the wall, building it stone by stone.

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