The incredible story of the Great Wall of China (and no, you can’t see it from space)


To this day, the Great Wall is still considered one of the greatest engineering feats in history – and that’s why it’s still so important.

The Great Wall of China is not a single wall but a series of walls and fortifications across China’s historic northern border. Their aim was to defend China against the peoples who lived on the other side of the wall in the Eurasian steppe – such as the Mongols but also many other peoples of the steppes. These walls were built over several hundred years, with the first sections being built around the 7th century BC – although few of these early parts remain.

Today it is recognized as one of the most impressive feats of engineering in human history. At different times and in different sections, the wall was made of earth, not everything was made of stone. Some of the earliest walls extended into what is now North Korea.

About the Great Wall

It is important to understand that this is not a singular wall like Hadrian’s Wall in England, but rather a series of walls built over hundreds of years. Many of these walls are not joined to the main wall, some of the older walls have not been incorporated into the newer walls.

In 2012, it was reported to be much longer than previously thought. It was reported to be 8,850 km long, but this has been revised to an incredible 21,000 km. Previous estimates were based on historical documents, but the new estimate is based on archaeological studies.

  • Wall length: Combined, it is believed to be some 13,170 miles or 21,196 kilometers
  • Save: The largest man-made structure ever built
  • 8.2%: The wall upright intact – The rest is in poor condition

The larger and newer parts of the wall were built during the Ming Dynasty of China. This was when the wall was at its peak. It stretched from Jiayu Pass in western Gansu province to the deserts of Ningxia, from there to the sea. In Shanxi province, the wall split into two with the “Outer Great Wall”. which ran along the border of Inner Mongolia. And then there was the “Inner Great Wall” which stretched south through important passes like Yanmen Pass and Pinxing Pass before joining the Outer Great Wall.

Related: 10 Etiquette Tips You Should Know Before Traveling To China

Today, only parts of the Great Wall have been renovated and restored. It is forbidden to access it in large part in order to preserve it. One of the most popular sections of the wall is the Badaling Great Wall which attracts around 10 million visitors per year.

  • Most popular section: The Great Wall of Badaling

When the Ming brought back the idea of ​​defending the country with a great wall. They built it much stronger and more elaborate than before and they used bricks and stone instead of the mud walls from previous constructions.

  • 25,000: Number of watchtowers believed to have been built on the Ming-era Great Wall

Obsolescence of the wall

All things come to an end. Hadrian’s Wall lost its usefulness, the games ceased in the Coliseum in Rome, and America’s wild frontier ceased to be both savage and frontier. The same happened with the Great Wall of China, in the end it became obsolete – not because of cannons and gunpowder, but because China’s borders moved north. .

The wall was built in part to defend the Chinese Empire against the Manchus in northern China (who were then not part of China) and the Mongols. Eventually, the Manchus broke through the wall, defeated the Chinese army, captured the capital Beijing, and established the Qing dynasty over all of China. During the reign of the Qing, Mongolia was annexed to the Chinese Empire (there are also many reasons to visit Mongolia). So, suddenly, Beijing went from border city to more or less central city and the Great Wall went from border of China to completely inside China. The people he was supposed to defend China against had taken over or been incorporated into China.

Related: What You Shouldn’t Visit In Beijing, China

The myth of visibility from space

It seems that the myth that the Great Wall is visible from space stems from stories that have come to the west about the size of the wall. The first claim that it was visible from space dates from 1754 by the English antiquarian William Stukeley who wrote: “This mighty wall [Hadrian’s wall] eighty miles in length is exceeded only by the Chinese wall, which forms a considerable figure on the terrestrial globe, and could be discerned at the moon.

  • Fun fact: The Great Wall of China is the only man-made object that can be seen from space – False
  • Hundreds : There are hundreds of man-made objects visible from space (e.g. highways, airports, cities, man-made islands in Dubai, etc.)
  • The great wall: Not visible from space (and only under perfect conditions from lower Earth orbit) – It lacks width and contrast (also most of the wall is not very visible – or at all visible – from the ground!)

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