10 Things to Know about the Great Wall of China

Four seasons scenery of Simatai Great Wall - Autumn by Simatai Great WallSimatai Great Wall

1. The total length of the Great Wall is 21196.18 km

The Great Wall is the largest man-made project in the world. The complete route is over 20,000 km, stretching from the east seaside to the west desert in northern China, winding up and down across mountains and plateaus like a dragon.

Jiayu Pass by Zhixia Nayol / TuchongSimatai Great Wall

2. There are 15 strategic passes from the East to the West

The Great Wall stretches across 15 northern Chinese provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, from the Bohai Sea in the east to the Gobi Desert, 2,500 kilometers away in the west. There are 15 geographically important passes built along the route.

The "First Pier" of the Great Wall at Jiayu Pass by FinalLap / TuchongSimatai Great Wall

3. It took over 2,000 years to construct the wall

The first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang took the remnants of ancient fortifications, walls, and earthworks and linked them into a unified wall circa 220 B.C.  

This picture shows the "First Pier of the Great Wall" which was built with rammed loess in 1539 A.D.

Apricot blossoms bloom in the west section of Simatai Great Wall (2021-05-11) by Wu QiangSimatai Great Wall

4. It is not a wall but a series of fortifications

The Great Wall is not a single-structured wall, it includes beacon towers, barriers, barracks, garrison stations, and fortresses along the walls, together forming an integrated defense system.

Maintenance and protection of the Great Wall (2021-08-11) by Wu QiangSimatai Great Wall

5. Various materials were used to build the Great Wall

The Great Wall is a massive monument built with different materials. Most of the sections we see today were built with bricks and cut stone blocks, and lime mortar was used to hold the bricks together.

Where bricks and blocks weren't available, tamped earth, uncut stones, and wood were used as local materials.

"Old Dragon's Head" at Shanhai Pass by Jianwangde Xingsheshijie / TuchongSimatai Great Wall

6. The eastern beginning in the sea: Shanhai Pass

Shanhai Pass was a fortress built in the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) and is the first pass in the East of China. It is located outside of Qinhuangdao City on Bohai Bay and 305 km away from Beijing. Given its strategic location, it's reputed as the "First pass under heaven".

Jiayu Pass by Cai Xiaoxiang / TuchongSimatai Great Wall

7. The western end in the Gobi Desert: Jiayu Pass

Jiayu Pass is famous for being the first frontier fortress at the western end of the Great Wall of China in the Ming Dynasty. Among the hundreds of passes of the Great Wall, Jiayu Pass is one of the most well-preserved passes in existence.

"Old Dragon's Head" at Shanhai Pass by Jianwangde Xingsheshijie / TuchongSimatai Great Wall

8. An ancient tale of love: the legend of lady Mengjiang

It's one of the four greatest love legends in ancient China. Lady Mengjiang's husband was sent to build the Great Wall, and never gave news. She departed to bring winter clothes to him but heard that he had already died. She weeped so bitterly that part of the wall collapsed. 

Character brick at Simatai Great Wall (2021-04-05) by Wu QiangSimatai Great Wall

9. The workers from ancient times left marks on the bricks

Some say that the texts on the bricks is a method that General Qi Jiguang devised in order to assess the quality of the bricks made by the soldiers, and to clarify the responsibilities. However, historians questioned this. Read more here

Juyong Pass Great Wall by Pingchangxin yq / TuchongSimatai Great Wall

10. It is Chinese people's greatest cultural icon

The Great Wall is the product of countless labors over a period of 2,000 years, and is a feast of engineering. It also reflected the collision and exchanges between the agricultural and nomadic civilizations. 

In the Yuan Dynasty (1272-1368), the Juyong Pass functioned as a major traffic artery from Beijing to Inner Mongolia. Since Yuan emperors often took this route between those places, temporary imperial palaces, temples, and gardens were constructed.

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