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The Great Wall of China () is a series of
fortifications A fortification is a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically officially authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, w ...

fortifications
that were built across the historical northern borders of
ancient Chinese states Ancient Chinese states () were typified by variously sized city-states and territories that existed in China prior to its unification by Qin Shi Huang Qin Shi Huang (, ; 259–210 BCE), or Shihuangdi, was the founder of the Qin dynasty, and f ...
and
Imperial China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty that ruled in the middle and ...
as protection against various nomadic groups from the
Eurasian Steppe The Eurasian Steppe, also simply called the Great Steppe or the steppes, is the vast steppe File:Steppe of western Kazakhstan in the early spring.jpg, Steppe in Kazakhstan In physical geography, a steppe () is an ecoregion characteri ...
. Several walls were built from as early as the 7th century BC, with selective stretches later joined together by
Qin Shi Huang Qin Shi Huang (, ; 259–210 BCE), or Shihuangdi, was the founder of the Qin dynasty, and first Emperor of China, emperor of a unified China. Rather than maintain the title of "Chinese king, king" ( ''wáng'') borne by the previous Shang dyna ...
(220–206 BC), the first emperor of China. Little of the Qin wall remains. Later on, many successive dynasties built and maintained multiple stretches of border walls. The best-known sections of the wall were built by the
Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the Dynasties in Chinese history, ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol Empire, Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last imperial dynas ...

Ming dynasty
(1368–1644). Apart from defense, other purposes of the Great Wall have included
border control Border control is the measures taken by a or a bloc of states to monitor its s and regulate the movement of people, animals, and goods across the border. History States and rulers have always regarded the ability to determine who enters or re ...
s, allowing the imposition of duties on goods transported along the
Silk Road The Silk Road () was and is a network of trade routes connecting the Eastern world, East and Western culture, West, from the 2nd century BCE to the 18th century CE. It was central to the economic, cultural, political, and religious interactions ...

Silk Road
, regulation or encouragement of trade and the control of immigration and emigration. Furthermore, the defensive characteristics of the Great Wall were enhanced by the construction of
watchtower A watchtower is a type of fortification A fortification is a military construction or building designed for the defense of territories in warfare, and is also used to establish rule in a region during peacetime. The term is derived from La ...

watchtower
s, troop barracks, garrison stations, signaling capabilities through the means of smoke or fire, and the fact that the path of the Great Wall also served as a transportation corridor. The frontier walls built by different dynasties have multiple courses. Collectively, they stretch from
Liaodong The Liaodong Peninsula (also Liaotung Peninsula, ) is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland from which it extends ...
in the east to
Lop Lake Lop Nur or Lop Nor (from a Mongolian name meaning "Lop Lake", where "Lop" is a toponym of unknown origin) is a former salt lake, now largely dried up, located between the Taklamakan and Kumtag deserts in the southeastern portion of the Xinjian ...
in the west, from the present-day SinoRussian border in the north to
Tao River Tao River () is a right tributary of China's Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin Chinese, Jin: uə xɔ Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, after the Yangtze River, and t ...
(Taohe) in the south; along an arc that roughly delineates the edge of the
Mongolian steppe Mongolian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Mongolia Mongolia (, Mongolian language, Mongolian: , Mongolian script, Traditional Mongolian: ') is a landlocked country in East Asia. Its area is roughly equivalent with the hist ...

Mongolian steppe
; spanning in total. Today, the defensive system of the Great Wall is generally recognized as one of the most impressive architectural feats in history.


Names

The collection of fortifications known as the Great Wall of China has historically had a number of different names in both Chinese and English. In Chinese histories, the term "Long Wall(s)" ( ''Chángchéng'') appears in
Sima Qian Sima Qian (; ; ) was a Chinese historian of the early Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu B ...

Sima Qian
's ''
Records of the Grand Historian The ''Records of the Grand Historian'', also known by its Chinese name ''Shiji'', is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Western Han Dynasty official Sima Qian after having been started by his father ...

Records of the Grand Historian
'', where it referred both to the separate great walls built between and north of the
Warring States The Warring States period () was an era in characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the and concluded with the that saw the annexation of all other contender states, which ultimate ...
and to the more unified construction of the
First Emperor Qin Shi Huang (, ; 259–210 BCE), or Shihuangdi, was the founder of the Qin dynasty The Qin dynasty, or Ch'in dynasty in Wade–Giles Wade–Giles () is a Romanization of Chinese, romanization system for Standard Chinese, Manda ...

First Emperor
. The
Chinese character Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it ...

Chinese character
, meaning city or fortress, is a
phono-semantic compound All Chinese character Chinese characters, also called ''Hanzi'' (), are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. They have been adapted to write other East-Asian languages, and remain a key component of the Japanese writing sys ...
of the "earth" radical and phonetic , whose
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It i ...
pronunciation has been
reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new company *''Perestroika'' (Russian for "reconstruction"), a late 20th century Soviet Union ...
as *''deŋ''. It originally referred to the
rampart rampART was a squatting, squatted social centre in the Whitechapel area of east London. It was established in a derelict building in Rampart Street which was previously used as an Islamic school for girls. The centre operated as a private club, pr ...
which surrounded traditional Chinese cities and was used by extension for these walls around their respective states; today, however, it is much more often the Chinese word for "city". The longer Chinese name "Ten-Thousand Mile Long Wall" ( ''Wànlǐ Chángchéng'') came from Sima Qian's description of it in the ''Records'', though he did not name the walls as such. The AD 493 ''
Book of Song The ''Book of Song'' (''Sòng Shū'') is a historical text of the Liu Song Dynasty of the Southern Dynasties of history of China, China. It covers history from 420 to 479, and is one of the Twenty-Four Histories, a traditional collection of histo ...
'' quotes the frontier general
Tan Daoji Tan Daoji () (died April 9, 436) was a high level general of the History of China, Chinese dynasty Liu Song. He was one of the most respected generals during the Southern and Northern Dynasties era. Because of this, however, he was feared by Emp ...
referring to "the long wall of 10,000 miles", closer to the modern name, but the name rarely features in pre-modern times otherwise. The traditional Chinese mile (, ''lǐ'') was an often irregular distance that was intended to show the length of a standard village and varied with terrain but was usually
standardized Standardization or standardisation is the process of implementing and developing technical standard A technical standard is an established norm or requirement for a repeatable technical task. It is usually a formal document that establishes un ...
at distances around a third of an English mile (540 m). Since China's
metrication Metrication or metrification is the act or process of converting to a metric METRIC (Mapping EvapoTranspiration at high Resolution with Internalized Calibration) is a computer model Computer simulation is the process of mathematical model ...

metrication
in 1930, it has been exactly equivalent to , which would make the wall's name describe a distance of . However, this use of "ten-thousand" (''wàn'') is figurative in a similar manner to the Greek and English ''
myriad A myriad (from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), ...
'' and simply means "innumerable" or "immeasurable". Because of the wall's association with the First Emperor's , the
Chinese dynasties Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary Heredity, also called inheritance or biological inheritance, is the passing on of traits Trait may refer to: * Phenotypic trait in biology, which involve genes and cha ...
after
QinQin may refer to: Dynasties and states * Qin (state) (秦), a major state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China * Qin dynasty (秦), founded by the Qin state in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC * Daqin (大秦), ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empi ...

Qin
usually avoided referring to their own additions to the wall by the name "Long Wall". Instead, various terms were used in medieval records, including "frontier(s)" (, ''Sài''), "rampart(s)" (, ''Yuán''), "barrier(s)" (, ''Zhàng''), "the outer fortresses" ''Wàibǎo''), and "the border wall(s)" ''Biānqiáng''). Poetic and informal names for the wall included "the Purple Frontier" ''Zǐsài'') and "the Earth Dragon" ''Tǔlóng''). Only during the Qing period did "Long Wall" become the catch-all term to refer to the many border walls regardless of their location or dynastic origin, equivalent to the English "Great Wall". Sections of the wall in south
Gobi Desert The Gobi Desert () is a large desert upright=1.5, alt=see caption, Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali ("Empty quarter") in the United Arab Emirates">Rub'_al_Khali.html" ;"title="Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali">Sand dunes in the Rub' al ...

Gobi Desert
and
Mongolia Mongolia (, mn, Монгол Улс, Mongol Uls, Mongolian script, Traditional Mongolian: '; literal translation, lit. "Mongol Nation" or "State of Mongolia") is a landlocked country in East Asia. It is bordered by Russia Mongolia–Russia ...

Mongolia
n
steppe In physical geography, a steppe () is an ecoregion characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes. Steppe biomes may include: * the montane grasslands and shrublands biome * the temperate grassland ...

steppe
are sometimes referred to as "Wall of Genghis Khan", even though Genghis Khan did not construct any walls or permanent defense lines himself. The current English name evolved from accounts of from early modern European travelers. By the nineteenth century, "The Great Wall of China" had become standard in English and French, although other European languages such as German continue to refer to it as "the Chinese wall".


History


Early walls

The Chinese were already familiar with the techniques of by the time of the
Spring and Autumn period #REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dyna ...
between the 8th and 5th centuries BC. During this time and the subsequent
Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spri ...
, the states of
QinQin may refer to: Dynasties and states * Qin (state) (秦), a major state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China * Qin dynasty (秦), founded by the Qin state in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC * Daqin (大秦), ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empi ...
, Wei, Zhao, Qi,
Han Han may refer to: Ethnic groups * Han Chinese The Han Chinese,
. Huayuqiao.org. Retrieved on ...
,
Yan Yan may refer to: Chinese states * Yan (state) Yan (; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, official ...
, and
Zhongshan Zhongshan (; ) is a prefecture-level city in the south of the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong Provinces of China, province, China. As of the 2020 census, the whole city with 4,418,060 inhabitants is now part of the Guangzhou–Shenzhen conurbati ...
all constructed extensive fortifications to defend their own borders. Built to withstand the attack of small arms such as swords and spears, these walls were made mostly of stone or by stamping earth and gravel between board frames. King Zheng of
QinQin may refer to: Dynasties and states * Qin (state) (秦), a major state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China * Qin dynasty (秦), founded by the Qin state in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC * Daqin (大秦), ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empi ...
conquered the last of his opponents and unified China as the
First Emperor Qin Shi Huang (, ; 259–210 BCE), or Shihuangdi, was the founder of the Qin dynasty The Qin dynasty, or Ch'in dynasty in Wade–Giles Wade–Giles () is a Romanization of Chinese, romanization system for Standard Chinese, Manda ...

First Emperor
of the
Qin dynasty The Qin dynasty, or Ch'in dynasty in Wade–Giles Wade–Giles () is a romanization Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of ever ...

Qin dynasty
("Qin Shi Huang") in 221 BC. Intending to impose centralized rule and prevent the resurgence of feudal lords, he ordered the destruction of the sections of the walls that divided his empire among the former states. To position the empire against the
Xiongnu The Xiongnu (, ) were a tribal confederation A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign groups or states united for purposes of common action. Usually created by a treaty A treaty is a formal ...

Xiongnu
people from the north, however, he ordered the building of new walls to connect the remaining fortifications along the empire's northern frontier. "Build and move on" was a central guiding principle in constructing the wall, implying that the Chinese were not erecting a permanently fixed border. Transporting the large quantity of materials required for construction was difficult, so builders always tried to use local resources. Stones from the mountains were used over mountain ranges, while
rammed earth Rammed earth is a technique for construction, constructing foundations, floors, and walls using natural raw materials such as soil, earth, chalk, Lime (material), lime, or gravel. It is an ancient method that has been revived recently as a sustainab ...

rammed earth
was used for construction in the plains. There are no surviving historical records indicating the exact length and course of the Qin walls. Most of the ancient walls have eroded away over the centuries, and very few sections remain today. The human cost of the construction is unknown, but it has been estimated by some authors that hundreds of thousands workers died building the Qin wall. Later, the
Han Han may refer to: Ethnic groups * Han Chinese The Han Chinese,
. Huayuqiao.org. Retrieved on ...

Han
, the
Northern dynasties The Northern and Southern dynasties () was a period in the history of China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also histori ...
and the all repaired, rebuilt, or expanded sections of the Great Wall at great cost to defend themselves against northern invaders. The Tang and
Song A song is a musical composition Musical composition can refer to an piece or work of , either or , the of a musical piece or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create new compositions are called s ...
dynasties did not undertake any significant effort in the region. Non-Han dynasties also built their border walls: the
Xianbei The Xianbei (; ) were a Proto-Mongolic Proto-Mongolic is the hypothetical ancestor language of the modern Mongolic languages. It is very close to the Middle Mongol language, the language spoken at the time of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empir ...
-ruled
Northern Wei The Northern Wei (), also known as the Tuoba Wei (拓跋魏), Later Wei (後魏), was a dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Pres ...
, the Khitan-ruled Liao,
JurchenJurchen may refer to: * Jurchen people, Tungusic people who inhabited the region of Manchuria until the 17th century ** Haixi Jurchens, a grouping of the Jurchens as identified by the Chinese of the Ming Dynasty ** Jianzhou Jurchens, a grouping of t ...
Jin and the Tangut-established
Western Xia The Western Xia or the Xi Xia (), officially the Great Xia (), also known as the Tangut Empire, and known as ''Mi-nyak''Stein (1972), pp. 70–71. to Tanguts and Tibetans, was a Tangut people, Tangut-ruled empire and a Dynasties in C ...

Western Xia
, who ruled vast territories over Northern China throughout centuries, all constructed defensive walls but those were located much to the north of the other Great Walls as we know it, within China's province of
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, subdivision, or territory) is a subnati ...

Inner Mongolia
and in
Mongolia Mongolia (, mn, Монгол Улс, Mongol Uls, Mongolian script, Traditional Mongolian: '; literal translation, lit. "Mongol Nation" or "State of Mongolia") is a landlocked country in East Asia. It is bordered by Russia Mongolia–Russia ...

Mongolia
itself.


Ming era

The Great Wall concept was revived again under the
Ming The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol The Mongols ( mn, Монголчууд, , ''Mongolchuud'', ; russian: Монголы, ) are an eth ...

Ming
in the 14th century, and following the Ming army's defeat by the
Oirats Oirats ( mn, Ойрад, ''Oirad'', or , Oird; ; xal-RU, Өөрд; in the past, also Eleuths) are the westernmost group of the Mongols The Mongols ( mn, Монголчууд, , ''Mongolchuud'', ; russian: Монголы, ) are an East ...
in the
Battle of Tumu The Tumu Crisis (; mn, Тумугийн тулалдаан), was a frontier conflict between the Northern Yuan dynasty The Northern Yuan () was a dynastic regime ruled by the Mongol The Mongols ( mn, Монголчууд, , ''Mongolchuu ...
. The Ming had failed to gain a clear upper hand over the
Mongol The Mongols ( mn, Монголчууд, , ''Mongolchuud'', ; russian: Монголы, ) are an East Asian East Asia is the eastern region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") ...

Mongol
ian tribes after successive battles, and the long-drawn conflict was taking a toll on the empire. The Ming adopted a new strategy to keep the nomadic tribes out by constructing walls along the northern border of China. Acknowledging the Mongol control established in the
Ordos Desert The Ordos Desert () is a desert upright=1.5, alt=see caption, Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali ("Empty quarter") in the United Arab Emirates">Rub'_al_Khali.html" ;"title="Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali">Sand dunes in the Rub' al Kha ...

Ordos Desert
, the wall followed the desert's southern edge instead of incorporating the bend of the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin: uə xɔ Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is ...
. Unlike the earlier fortifications, the Ming construction was stronger and more elaborate due to the use of bricks and stone instead of rammed earth. Up to 25,000 watchtowers are estimated to have been constructed on the wall. As Mongol raids continued periodically over the years, the Ming devoted considerable resources to repair and reinforce the walls. Sections near the Ming capital of Beijing were especially strong.
Qi Jiguang Qi Jiguang (, November 12, 1528 – January 17, 1588), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, ...

Qi Jiguang
between 1567 and 1570 also repaired and reinforced the wall, faced sections of the ram-earth wall with bricks and constructed 1,200 watchtowers from Shanhaiguan Pass to Changping to warn of approaching Mongol raiders. During the 1440s–1460s, the Ming also built a so-called "Liaodong Wall". Similar in function to the Great Wall (whose extension, in a sense, it was), but more basic in construction, the Liaodong Wall enclosed the agricultural heartland of the
Liaodong The Liaodong Peninsula (also Liaotung Peninsula, ) is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland from which it extends ...
province, protecting it against potential incursions by Jurched-Mongol Oriyanghan from the northwest and the
Jianzhou Jurchens The Jianzhou Jurchens () were one of the three major groups of Jurchens Jurchen (Manchu language, Manchu: ''Jušen'', ; zh, 女真, ''Nǚzhēn'', ) is a term used to collectively describe a number of East Asian people, East Asian Tungusic l ...
from the north. While stones and tiles were used in some parts of the Liaodong Wall, most of it was in fact simply an earth dike with moats on both sides. Towards the end of the Ming, the Great Wall helped defend the empire against the
Manchu The Manchu (; ) are an officially recognized ethnic minority in China and the people from whom Manchuria Manchuria is an exonym and endonym, exonym for a historical and geographic region of Russia and China in Northeast Asia (mostly in ...

Manchu
invasions that began around 1600. Even after the loss of all of
Liaodong The Liaodong Peninsula (also Liaotung Peninsula, ) is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to a mainland from which it extends ...
, the Ming army held the heavily fortified
Shanhai Pass Shanhai Pass or Shanhaiguan () is one of the major pass Pass, PASS, The Pass or Passed may refer to: Places *Pass, County Meath, a townland in Ireland *Pass, Poland, a village in Poland *Pass (strait), Pass, an alternate term for a numbe ...
, preventing the Manchus from conquering the Chinese heartland. The Manchus were finally able to cross the Great Wall in 1644, after Beijing had already fallen to
Li Zicheng Li Zicheng (22 September 1606 – 1645), born Li Hongji, also known by the nickname, Dashing King, was a Chinese peasant rebel leader who overthrew the Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty ...
's rebels. Before this time, the Manchus had crossed the Great Wall multiple times to raid, but this time it was for conquest. The gates at Shanhai Pass were opened on May 25 by the commanding Ming general,
Wu Sangui Wu Sangui (), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asian cultural sphere, including China, Japan, K ...

Wu Sangui
, who formed an alliance with the Manchus, hoping to use the Manchus to expel the rebels from Beijing. The Manchus quickly seized Beijing, and eventually defeated both the rebel-founded
Shun dynasty The Shun dynasty (), officially the Great Shun (), was a short-lived Dynasties in Chinese history, dynasty that existed during the Transition from Ming to Qing, Ming–Qing transition in History of China, Chinese history. The dynasty was founded ...
and the remaining Ming resistance, establishing rule of the
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Pr ...
over all of China. Under Qing rule, China's borders extended beyond the walls and Mongolia was annexed into the empire, so constructions on the Great Wall were discontinued. On the other hand, the so-called
Willow Palisade Willow Palisade (; mnc, m=, v=Biregen Jase, ᠠ=Biregen Jase) was a system of ditches and embankments planted with willows intended to restrict movement into Manchuria, built by the Qing dynasty during the later 17th century. It is often convenien ...
, following a line similar to that of the Ming Liaodong Wall, was constructed by the Qing rulers in Manchuria. Its purpose, however, was not defense but rather to prevent Han Chinese migration into Manchuria.


Foreign accounts

None of the
Europeans Europeans are the focus of European ethnology, the field of anthropology related to the various indigenous groups that reside in the List of sovereign states and dependent territories in Europe, nations of Europe. Groups may be defined by commo ...
who visited China or Mongolia in the 13th and 14th centuries, such as
Giovanni da Pian del Carpine Giovanni da Pian del Carpine, variously rendered in English as ''John of Pian de Carpine'', ''John of Plano Carpini'' or ''Joannes de Plano'' (c. 11851 August 1252), was a medieval Italian diplomat, archbishop and explorer and one of the firs ...
,
William of Rubruck 250px, Voyage of William of Rubruck in 1253–1255 William of Rubruck ( nl, Willem van Rubroeck; la, Gulielmus de Rubruquis;  12481255), also known as Willem van Ruysbroeck, Guillaume de Rubrouck, or Willielmus de Rubruquis, was a Flemish peo ...
,
Marco Polo Marco Polo (, , ; September 15, 1254January 8, 1324) was a merchant, explorer, and writer who travelled through Asia along the between 1271 and 1295. His travels are recorded in ' (also known as ''Book of the Marvels of the World '' and '' ...

Marco Polo
,
Odoric of Pordenone Odoric of Pordenone, (1286–1331), also known as Odorico Mattiussi/Mattiuzzi, Odoricus of Friuli or Orderic of Pordenone, was an Italian late-medieval Franciscan The Franciscans are a group of related Mendicant orders, mendicant Christianity ...
and
Giovanni de' Marignolli Giovanni de' Marignolli ( la, Johannes Marignola;. ), variously anglicized Linguistic anglicisation (or anglicization, occasionally anglification, anglifying, or Englishing) is the practice of modifying foreign words, names, and phrases to make ...
, mentioned the Great Wall. The North African traveler
Ibn Battuta Ibn Battuta (; 24 February 13041368/1369); fully: ; Arabic: was a Berber Berber or Berbers may refer to: Culture * Berbers Berbers or ''Imazighen'' ( ber, translit=Imaziɣen, ⵉⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵏ, ⵎⵣⵗⵏ; singular: , ) are an e ...
, who also visited China during the
Yuan dynasty The Yuan dynasty (), officially the Great Yuan (; xng, , , literally "Great Yuan State"), was a successor state Successor is someone who, or something which succeeds or comes after (see success and succession) Film and TV * ''The Succ ...
c. 1346, had heard about China's Great Wall, possibly before he had arrived in China. He wrote that the wall is "sixty days' travel" from Zeitun (modern
Quanzhou Quanzhou, alternatively known as Chinchew, is a prefecture-level port city on the north bank of the Jin River, beside the Taiwan Strait The Taiwan Strait, also known as the Formosa Strait, is a -wide strait A strait is a natural ...

Quanzhou
) in his travelogue '' Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling''. He associated it with the legend of the wall mentioned in the
Qur'an The Quran (, ; ar, القرآن , "the recitation"), also romanized Qur'an or Koran, is the central religious text of Islam, believed by Muslims to be a revelation in Islam, revelation from God in Islam, God (''Allah''). It is widely rega ...

Qur'an
, which Dhul-Qarnayn (commonly associated with
Alexander the Great Alexander III of Macedon ( grc-gre, Αλέξανδρος}, ; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king (''basileus ''Basileus'' ( el, βασιλεύς) is a Greek term and title A title ...

Alexander the Great
) was said to have erected to protect people near the land of the rising sun from the savages of
Gog and Magog Gog and Magog (; he, גּוֹג וּמָגוֹג, ''Gōg ū-Māgōg'') appear in the Hebrew Bible as individuals, tribes, or lands. In Ezekiel 38, Gog is an individual and Magog is his land; in Genesis 10, Magog is a man and eponymous ancestor ...

Gog and Magog
. However, Ibn Battuta could find no one who had either seen it or knew of anyone who had seen it, suggesting that although there were remnants of the wall at that time, they were not significant. Soon after Europeans reached Ming China by ship in the early 16th century, accounts of the Great Wall started to circulate in Europe, even though no European was to see it for another century. Possibly one of the earliest European descriptions of the wall and of its significance for the defense of the country against the "
Tartars Tartary ( la, Tartaria, french: Tartarie, german: Tartarei) was a blanket term used in Western Europe Western Europe is the region of Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identif ...
" (i.e. Mongols) may be the one contained in
João de Barros João de Barros () (1496 – 20 October 1570), called the ''Portuguese Livy Titus Livius (; 59 BC – AD 17), known in English as Livy ( ), was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman c ...

João de Barros
's 1563 ''Asia''. Other early accounts in Western sources include those of
Gaspar da Cruz Gaspar da Cruz ( 1520 – 5 February 1570; sometimes also known under an Hispanized version of his name, Gaspar de la Cruz) was a Portuguese people, Portuguese Dominican Order, Dominican friar born in Évora, who traveled to Asia and wrote one of th ...
,
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Matteo Ricci Matteo Ricci (; la, Mattheus Riccius; 6 October 1552 – 11 May 1610), was an Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian ...
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Juan González de Mendoza Juan González de Mendoza, Order of Saint Augustine, O.S.A. (1545 – 14 February 1618) was a Spanish bishop, explorer, sinologist, and writer. He was the author of one of the earliest Western histories of China. Published by him in 1585, ''His ...
, the latter in 1585 describing it as a "superbious and mightie work" of architecture, though he had not seen it. In 1559, in his work "A Treatise of China and the Adjoyning Regions", Gaspar da Cruz offers an early discussion of the Great Wall. Perhaps the first recorded instance of a European actually entering China via the Great Wall came in 1605, when the Portuguese Jesuit brother Bento de Góis reached the northwestern Jiayu Pass from India. Early European accounts were mostly modest and empirical, closely mirroring contemporary Chinese understanding of the Wall, although later they slid into hyperbole, including the erroneous but ubiquitous claim that the Ming walls were the same ones that were built by the first emperor in the 3rd century BC. When China opened its borders to foreign merchants and visitors after its defeat in the First Opium War, First and Second Opium Wars, the Great Wall became a main attraction for tourists. The Travelogue (literature), travelogues of the later 19th century further enhanced the reputation and the mythology of the Great Wall.


Course

A formal definition of what constitutes a "Great Wall" has not been agreed upon, making the full course of the Great Wall difficult to describe in its entirety. The defensive lines contain multiple stretches of ramparts, trenches and ditches, as well as individual fortresses. In 2012, based on existing research and the results of a comprehensive mapping survey, the National Cultural Heritage Administration of China concluded that the remaining Great Wall associated sites include 10,051 wall sections, 1,764 ramparts or trenches, 29,510 individual buildings, and 2,211 fortifications or passes, with the walls and trenches spanning a total length of . Incorporating advanced technologies, the study has concluded that the Ming Great Wall measure . This consists of of wall sections, of trenches and of natural defensive barriers such as hills and rivers. In addition,
QinQin may refer to: Dynasties and states * Qin (state) (秦), a major state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China * Qin dynasty (秦), founded by the Qin state in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC * Daqin (大秦), ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empi ...

Qin
,
Han Han may refer to: Ethnic groups * Han Chinese The Han Chinese,
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Han
and earlier Great Wall sites are long in total; Jin dynasty (1115–1234) Jin dynasty (1115–1234)#Jin Great Wall, border fortifications are in length; the remainder date back to
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, Northern Qi, , Tang, the Five Dynasties,
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, Liao and Xixia. About half of the sites are located in
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, subdivision, or territory) is a subnati ...

Inner Mongolia
(31%) and Hebei (19%). File:Hanmuren.JPG, Great Wall of Han dynasty near Yumenguan. File:20090529 Great Wall 8185.jpg, Ming dynasty Great Wall at Jinshanling


Han Great Wall

Han fortifications starts from Yumen Pass and Yang Pass, southwest of Dunhuang, in Gansu province. Ruins of the remotest Han border posts are found in Mamitu ( ''Mǎmítú'', ) near Yumen Pass.


Ming Great Wall

The Jiayuguan (pass), Jiayu Pass, located in Gansu province, is the western terminus of the Ming Great Wall. From Jiayu Pass the wall travels discontinuously down the Hexi Corridor and into the deserts of Ningxia, where it enters the western edge of the Yellow River loop at Yinchuan. Here the first major walls erected during the Ming dynasty cut through the
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to the eastern edge of the Yellow River loop. There at Piantou Pass ''Piāntóuguān'') in Xinzhou, Shanxi province, the Great Wall splits in two with the "Outer Great Wall" ''Wài Chǎngchéng'') extending along the Inner Mongolia border with Shanxi into Hebei province, and the "Inner Great Wall" ''Nèi Chǎngchéng'') running southeast from Piantou Pass for some , passing through important passes like the Pingxing Pass and Yanmen Pass before joining the Outer Great Wall at Sihaiye in Beijing's Yanqing County. The sections of the Great Wall around Beijing municipality are especially famous: they were frequently renovated and are regularly visited by tourists today. The Badaling Great Wall near Zhangjiakou is the most famous stretch of the wall, for this was the first section to be opened to the public in the People's Republic of China, as well as the showpiece stretch for foreign dignitaries. The Badaling Great Wall saw nearly 10 million visitors in 2018, and in 2019, a daily limit of 65,000 visitors was instated. South of Badaling is the Juyong Pass; when it was used by the Chinese to protect their land, this section of the wall had many guards to defend the capital Beijing. Made of stone and bricks from the hills, this portion of the Great Wall is high and wide. One of the most striking sections of the Ming Great Wall is where it climbs extremely steep slopes in Jinshanling. There it runs long, ranges from in height, and across the bottom, narrowing up to across the top. Wangjing Lou ''Wàngjīng Lóu'') is one of Jinshanling's 67 watchtowers, above sea level. Southeast of Jinshanling is the Mutianyu Great Wall which winds along lofty, cragged mountains from the southeast to the northwest for . It is connected with Juyongguan Pass to the west and Gubeikou to the east. This section was one of the first to be renovated following the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution. At the edge of the Bohai Gulf is Shanhai Pass, considered the traditional end of the Great Wall and the "First Pass Tianxia, Under Heaven". The part of the wall inside Shanhai Pass that meets the sea is named the "Old Dragon Head". north of Shanhai Pass is Jiaoshan Great Wall ( ''Jiāoshān Chángchéng''), the site of the first mountain of the Great Wall. northeast from Shanhaiguan is Jiumenkou ''Jiǔménkǒu''), which is the only portion of the wall that was built as a bridge. In 2009, 180 km of previously unknown sections of the Ming wall concealed by hills, trenches and rivers were discovered with the help of infrared range finders and GPS devices. In March and April 2015, nine sections with a total length of more than , believed to be part of the Great Wall, were discovered along the border of Ningxia autonomous region and Gansu province.


Characteristics

Before the use of bricks, the Great Wall was mainly built from rammed earth, stones, and wood. During the Ming, however, bricks were heavily used in many areas of the wall, as were materials such as tiles, lime (mineral), lime, and stone. The size and weight of the bricks made them easier to work with than earth and stone, so construction quickened. Additionally, bricks could bear more weight and endure better than rammed earth. Stone can hold under its own weight better than brick, but is more difficult to use. Consequently, stones cut into rectangular shapes were used for the foundation, inner and outer :wikt:brim, brims, and gateways of the wall. Battlements line the uppermost portion of the vast majority of the wall, with defensive gaps a little over tall, and about wide. From the parapets, guards could survey the surrounding land. Communication between the army units along the length of the Great Wall, including the ability to call reinforcements and warn garrisons of enemy movements, was of high importance. Signal towers were built upon hill tops or other high points along the wall for their visibility. Wooden gates could be used as a trap against those going through. Barracks, stables, and armories were built near the wall's inner surface.


Condition

While portions north of Beijing and near tourist centers have been preserved and even extensively renovated, in many other locations the wall is in disrepair. The wall sometimes provided a source of stones to build houses and roads. Sections of the wall are also prone to graffiti and vandalism, while inscribed bricks were pilfered and sold on the market for up to 50 renminbi. Parts have been destroyed to make way for construction or mining. A 2012 report by the National Cultural Heritage Administration states that 22% of the Ming Great Wall has disappeared, while of wall have vanished. More than of the wall in Gansu province may disappear in the next 20 years, due to erosion from Dust storm, sandstorms. In some places, the height of the wall has been reduced from more than to less than . Various square lookout towers that characterize the most famous images of the wall have disappeared. Many western sections of the wall are Mudbrick, constructed from mud, rather than brick and stone, and thus are more susceptible to erosion. In 2014 a portion of the wall near the border of Liaoning and Hebei province was repaired with concrete. The work has been much criticized.


Visibility from space


From the Moon

The notion that the wall can be seen from the moon (with an average orbital radius of 385,000 km (239,000 miles)) is a well-known but untrue myth. One of the earliest known references to the myth that the Great Wall can be seen from the moon appears in a letter written in 1754 by the English antiquary William Stukeley. Stukeley wrote that, "This mighty wall of four score miles [130 km] in length is only exceeded by the Chinese Wall, which makes a considerable figure upon the terrestrial globe, and may be discerned at the Moon." The claim was also mentioned by Sir Henry Norman, 1st Baronet, Henry Norman in 1895 where he states "besides its age it enjoys the reputation of being the only work of human hands on the globe visible from the Moon."Norman, Henry, ''The Peoples and Politics of the Far East'', p. 215. (1895). The issue of Martian canal, "canals" on Mars was prominent in the late 19th century and may have led to the belief that long, thin objects were visible from space. The claim that the Great Wall is visible from the moon also appears in 1932's ''Ripley's Believe It or Not!'' strip."The Great Wall of China"
''Ripley's Believe It or Not!'', 1932.
The claim that the Great Wall is visible from the moon has been debunked many timesUrban Legends.com website
Accessed May 12, 2010.

, Answers.com. Accessed May 12, 2010.
Cecil Adams,
Is the Great wall of China the only manmade object byou can see from space?
, ''The Straight Dope''. Accessed May 12, 2010.
Snopes,
Great wall from space
, last updated July 21, 2007. Accessed May 12, 2010.
Is China's Great Wall Visible from Space?
, ''Scientific American'', February 21, 2008. "... the wall is only visible from low orbit under a specific set of weather and lighting conditions. And many other structures that are less spectacular from an earthly vantage point—desert roads, for example—appear more prominent from an orbital perspective."
(the apparent width of the Great Wall from the Moon would be the same as that of a human hair viewed from away) but is still ingrained in popular culture."Metro Tescos", ''The Times'' (London), April 26, 2010. Found a
The Times website
Accessed May 12, 2010.


From low Earth orbit

A more controversial question is whether the wall is visible from low Earth orbit (an altitude of as little as ). NASA claims that it is barely visible, and only under nearly perfect conditions; it is no more conspicuous than many other man-made objects. Veteran US astronaut Eugene Cernan, Gene Cernan has stated: "At Earth orbit of high, the Great Wall of China is, indeed, visible to the naked eye." Ed Lu, Expedition 7 Science Officer aboard the International Space Station, adds that, "It's less visible than a lot of other objects. And you have to know where to look." In October 2003, Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei stated that he had not been able to see the Great Wall of China. In response, the European Space Agency (ESA) issued a press release reporting that from an orbit between , the Great Wall is visible to the naked eye. Leroy Chiao, a Chinese-American astronaut, took a photograph from the International Space Station that shows the wall. It was so indistinct that the photographer was not certain he had actually captured it. Based on the photograph, the ''China Daily'' later reported that the Great Wall can be seen from 'space' with the naked eye, under favorable viewing conditions, if one knows exactly where to look.Markus, Francis. (April 19, 2005)
Great Wall visible in space photo
BBC News, Asia-Pacific section. Retrieved March 17, 2007.


Gallery

File:Remains of Beacon tower near Yumenguan. 2011.jpg, Remains of Beacon tower near Yumenguan, 2011 File:"The First Mound"--the west end of the Great Wall.jpg, "The First Mound" – at Jiayu Pass, the western terminus of the Ming wall File:The Journey of Discovery Beijing (6962643268).jpg, The great wall near Jiayu Pass File:明长城 - panoramio (1).jpg, Ming wall remnant near Yinchuan File:榆林市的明长城遗迹 - panoramio.jpg, The Great Wall remnant at Yulin, Shaanxi, Yulin Image:GreatWall 2004 Summer 1A.jpg, The Great Wall at Badaling File:Juyongguan Great Wall.jpg, The Juyongguan area of the Great Wall accepts numerous tourists each day File:Gubeikou Gate.jpg, Gateway of Gubeikou Fortress File:Environmental protection sign near Great Wall. 2011.jpg, Environmental protection sign near Great Wall, 2011 Image:Great Wall at Simatai overlooking gorge.jpg, Ming Great Wall at Simatai, overlooking the gorge Image:MutianyuGreatWallWildSection.JPG, Mutianyu Great Wall. This is atop the wall on a section that has not been restored File:Great wall stops in see.jpg, The Old Dragon Head, the Great Wall where it meets the sea in the vicinity of
Shanhai Pass Shanhai Pass or Shanhaiguan () is one of the major pass Pass, PASS, The Pass or Passed may refer to: Places *Pass, County Meath, a townland in Ireland *Pass, Poland, a village in Poland *Pass (strait), Pass, an alternate term for a numbe ...
File:The Great wall - by Hao Wei.jpg, The Great Wall at dawn File:InsideGWWatchtower.jpg, Inside the watchtower File:Great Wall of China view 1.jpg, Badaling Great Wall during winter


See also

* Cheolli Jangseong * Chinese city wall * Defense of the Great Wall * Gates of Alexander * Great Wall of China hoax * Great Wall Marathon * Great Wall of Gorgan * Kumbhalgarh, Great Wall of India * List of World Heritage Sites in China * Miaojiang Great Wall * Offa's Dyke * Roman military frontiers and fortifications * Zasechnaya cherta


Notes


References

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* Arnold, H. J. P., "The Great Wall: Is It or Isn't It?" ''Astronomy Now'', 1995. * Christopher I. Beckwith, Beckwith, Christopher I. (2009): ''Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present''. Princeton: Princeton University Press. . * Luo, Zewen, et al. and Baker, David, ed. (1981). ''The Great Wall''. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Book Company (UK). * * Michaud, Roland and Sabrina (photographers), & Michel Jan, ''The Great Wall of China''. Abbeville Press, 2001. * Edward H. Schafer, Schafer, Edward H. (1985). ''The Golden Peaches of Samarkand''. Berkeley: University of California Press. . *


External links


International Friends of the Great Wall
nbsp;– organization focused on conservation
UNESCO World Heritage Centre profile

Enthusiast/scholar website
*

* {{DEFAULTSORT:Great Wall Of China Great Wall of China, 7th-century BC establishments in China Border barriers Chinese architectural history Fortification lines Qin Shi Huang Walls World Heritage Sites in China