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The Great Wall of China is the series of walls and fortifications running across the China’s historical northern borders in an east-west line. These walls were built to serve as the country’s defence against the invasions and raids from the different migratory tribes living in the Eurasian Steppe like the Mongols and Russians. The entire Great Wall of China is said to be 21,196 km (13,171 mi) in length.
Interesting Facts about the Great Wall of China:
- While “The Great Wall of China” is the standard name for the amazing human-made structure in English, German and French, China’s series of walls and fortifications also go by the name of “The Chinese Wall”, “The Long Wall” and “The 10,000-Mile Long Wall”. Informal and poetic names for the landmark include “The Earth Dragon” and “The Purple Frontier”. In China, the Great Wall was christened “The Long Wall”.
- King Zheng of Qin [pronounced “chin”, where China’s name also came from], the first emperor of the unified China [Qin Shi Huang, Shi Huangti were his other names], was the one who started building what is now The Great Wall of China. He ordered that a wall be built at the northern border of the new empire as a means of defense against the Xiongnu, the nomads from Mongolia.
- The construction of The Great wall started in the Spring and Autumn Period (770 – 476 BC) and went on until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), a time span of 1,800 years. Its building involved some 20 states and dynasties.
- The Great Wall is made from an assortment of materials — stone, rammed earth and wood as well as bricks, tiles and limestone during the Ming Dynasty. But the most interesting material used for its building was glutinous rice more commonly known as “sticky rice”. It was a component in the mortar recipe used for the walls. According to modern investigations, sticky rice significantly contributed to the walls’ endurance and strength all thanks to its cohesive properties [courtesy of the amylopectin it contains].
- It is only these recent times that China started recognizing The Great Wall as powerful symbol of its history and culture. People of ancient China saw the wall not as a source of national pride or unity. They detested wall building as the work was dangerous and very difficult. It has been estimated that 400,000 workers died throughout The Great Wall’s construction and repair.
- Today, The Great Wall of China measures 13,171 miles in length. However, experts believe that at its peak during the Ming Dynasty, The Long Wall was longer than it is now. Accordingly, some 1,200 miles of the wall have been destroyed from that period until the present, that’s about one-third of its original length. Experts also predict that some standing portions of The Great Wall will collapse by 2040 because of the erosion and weathering brought about by the people and by nature.
- On the other hand, new portions of The Great Wall have been discovered as recently as 2012! There are yet to be unearthed parts of the wall are said to be located in the northern part of China, on the borders of Mongolia.
- In 1987, The Great wall of China was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was also named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2006 by the New7Wonders Foundation. In all, The Long Wall crosses eleven provinces and two independent regions – the Inner Mongolia and Ningxia.
- The wheelbarrow was invented in 200 AD by a Chinese named Zhuge Liang. Experts say that the contraption was used extensively during the construction of The Great Wall.
Misconceptions about The Great Wall of China
- The Great Wall of China is one continuous wall.
- Unlike what one would usually think upon hearing the name The Great wall of China, the wall isn’t comprised of just one continuous structure but is a network of walls and fortifications that’s about 20,000 kilometers long bordering the northern territories of the Ancient and Imperial China.
- The Great Wall of China is visible from space.
- English scholar William Stukeley was the first person to put forth the idea that The Great Wall was visible in space in his Family Memoirs in 1754. This idea was upheld by journalist Henry Norman in his book The Peoples and Politics of the Far East in 1895. In 1932, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Cartoon strip picked up this “fact”.
- However, The Great wall’s visibility in space is far from the truth. Reliable sources like astronaut Neil Armstrong  and even Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei [2003, during the first Chinese flight in space] said they failed to see the human-made structure during their time in space.
Timeline of the Great Wall’s Construction
Chunqiu Period (The Spring and Autumn Period c. 770 – 476 BC)
Warring States Period (475 BC-221 BC) – independent states built unconnected walls to defend their territories from enemies. The earliest and most well-known structure from these times was the Chu State Great Wall or The Square Wall.
QIN [CHIN] DYNASTY (221 – 207 BC) – after defeating the other states, Qin Shi Huang became the first emperor of unified China. He ordered the linking of the states’ unconnected walls forming the first sections of the Great Wall. He also had the wall extended to keep the northern Huns, constant enemy of the dynasty throughout its period, away.
Length Built: 3, 107 miles
HAN DYNASTY (202 BC – 220 AD) – The death of Shi Huangti put an end to the Qin Dynasty. Then, the Hand Dynasty rose under the rule of Emperor Gaozu. Further extensions of the ancient wall were constructed and existing sections renovated and reinforced like the Qin Dynasty Wall. The Han Dynasty Wall’s purpose those times wasn’t just to keep the Huns at bay but also to protect the ancient Silk Road which connected China to the west.
Length Built: 6, 214 miles
THE NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN DYNASTIES (420 – 589) – when the unified Han Dynasty fell, several dynasties rose creating chaos within the empire. The Northern Wei, Northern Qi, Eastern Wei, and Northern Zhou Dynasties each built their own sections of The Great Wall to defend their own territories.
SUI DYNASTY (581 – 618) – after the chaotic years of the Northern and Southern Dynasties, the Sui Dynasty emerged. The emperors of the dynasty placed great emphasis on territory defense as northern nomadic tribes continued to be threats. Northern and southern walls were built throughout the period. Accordingly, about 2 million laborers did the work in a span of 28 years.
TANG DYNASTY (618 – 907) – There was little building during this period as the empire enjoyed peace under the Tang Dynasty.
Length Built: 93 miles
SONG DYNASTY (960 – 1279) – The Song Dynasty had two parts. The first part, the Northern Song, rose after the Tang Dynasty but was in constant war against the Liao, Western Xia and Jin Dynasties. Construction of The Great Wall continued in this period but it failed to stop the invasion of the Jin Dynasty in the north causing the fall of the Northern Song. Emperor Gaozu of Song, however, was able to escape to the southern part of China and reestablished the dynasty in Lin’an (now Hangzhou). This was the Southern Song Dynasty. But due to the lack of finances, the Southern Song did not build defense lines on the borders of their claimed territory.
JIN DYNASTY (1115 – 1234) – The Jin Dynasty reigned strongly in China’s northeastern parts after the fall of the Song. But threats from the Western Xia and the Mongol Empire did not stop. So, as a line of defense against the enemies, the northernmost section of The Great Wall was constructed in 1194. However, drought and objections from ministers cut the construction short. Two years later, in 1196, building of the wall was resumed and finished in three years. The Jin Dynasty Wall was said to be 1,025 miles (1,650 kilometers) in length. Along its wall were garrisons, beacon towers, fortresses and ditches.
YUAN DYNASTY (1271 – 1368) – The Mongol Empire rose and went on to absorb the Southern Song and the Jin Dynasties, the Western Xia as well as the other independent states in China. The unification of all these governments marked the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty. Because of its large territory and strong military power, very few sections of The Great Wall were built during this period.
MING DYNASTY (1368-1644) – The Ming Dynasty was “The Great Wall’s Golden Age”. It was during this period that the wall’s history was at its peak. The Ming, in its 200-year reign, went on to build 5,500 miles (8,851.8 kilometers) of the wall in defense against the Tartars, Jurchens and other invading northern tribes. Ming emperors also fortified the walls of previous dynasties by doubling and multi-lining them. Most of the wall’s popular sites today date back to this period.
QING DYNASTY (1644 – 1911) – No matter how strong the Ming Dynasty was, it failed to stop the advancing cavalries of the Qing Dynasty which was established by the Manchu people who came from northeastern China. The Qing Dynasty Wall was known as the Willow Line and consisted of a deep trench with willows planted along it. This wasn’t a defense line, however, but a means to stop the Han people from migrating into Northeast China and Inner Mongolia.
The Great Wall Of China Worksheets
This bundle contains 11 ready-to-use Great Wall Of China Worksheets that are perfect for students who want to learn more about The Great Wall of China which is the series of walls and fortifications running across the China’s historical northern borders in an east-west line.
Download includes the following worksheets:
- The Great Wall of China Facts
- Where’s The Great Wall of China?
- The Great Wall of China Word Search
- Fact or Bluff
- The Great Wall of China in Numbers
- The Great Wall of China Timeline
- Sequencing Events
- Some People Behind The Great Wall
- Postcard from China
- Do You Agree?
- Famous Walls Around the World
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Link will appear as The Great Wall Of China Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, April 24, 2017
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