The Great Wall of China

  • The Great Wall of China is the longest man-made structure ever built in terms of size and time.
  • It is approximately 5,500 miles long which is the length of about 9 Britain’s!
  • If you were to walk along the wall non-stop from end to end, it would take around three to four months!
  • The construction of the wall began in 221 BC and ended during the 1500’s.
  • How long ago was 221 BC?

    Can you estimate how many years it took to complete?

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    The wall was built as a defence against raiders from the north. The Emperor Qin Shi Huang (Chin Shee Hang)used millions of men to help construct sections of the wall over many years, mostly against their will. It is estimated that a million men died whilst slaving away on this project with their bones becoming an element of the finished structure. The Great Wall of China may be the longest grave site in the world, filled with the remains of the Chinese ancestors who were collected in protecting their families and their country.

    The Great Wall stretches from East to West across northern China. (Notice the way it almost mimics the border of Mongolia, why might this be?)

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    Much of the remaining sections seen today were largely rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Very early techniques used to build the wall involved ramming quantities of earth together like making a sandcastle but on a much larger scale. This would have been a very long and tiring task.

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    For decades, there have been common myths about
    the Great Wall of China being the only man-made structure visible from space,
    and even from the moon. These ‘facts’ were
    included in many books published about the wall, but were eventually disproven
    by China’s first astronaut in space. In 2003, Yang Liewei stated that the Earth
    looked very beautiful from space, but he did not see their ‘Great Wall.’ This could have been for various reasons but other astronauts have reported that from space, they were able to recognise other man-made structures, cities, large vehicles, ships in the sea, even the pyramids from around 200 miles up.

    This is a picture taken from a satellite orbiting the Earth from space.The Great Wall is highlighted in the top right hand corner.

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    Meng Jiangnu Weeps chinese-ghost-meng-jiangyu-small

    Over 2,000 years ago, in China, there lived a young man called Fan Ziliang and his young sweetheart, Meng Jiangnu. They loved each other very much and looked forward to getting married and living happily ever after. But, on the day of their wedding, a terrible thing happened. The Emperor of China was building a Great Wall to keep out his enemies and protect his people. He needed many thousands of men to build this Great Wall, and often he had to force them to work for him. Fan Ziliang was one of these men, and on the very day of his wedding he was dragged away to work on building the Great Wall.

    For five long years, Meng Jiangnu waited at home for her husband to return, but he never came. One night, while she was sleeping, Meng Jiangnu dreamed that she saw her husband wearing very thin clothes and shivering with cold. When she woke up she immediately started to make some warm, padded clothes for Fan Ziliang, and as soon as they were made she set out to look for him.

    Meng Jiangnu bravely made the very long journey on foot, crossing mountains and rivers in her search for her husband. After many moons, she reached the Great Wall where she looked frantically for her husband, but she could not find him anywhere. Eventually she found someone who had known her husband, but he sadly told her that Fan Ziliang had died and was buried somewhere under the Great Wall, along with many thousands of other men.

    Meng Jiangnu was heart-broken. Dropping to her knees at the foot of the Great Wall, she wept. She wept day and night for her beloved husband, knowing that she would never see him again. She wept so much that her weeping caused a great stretch of the Great Wall to collapse. In the rubble, she found the bones of her husband and she gathered them together so that he could be properly buried.

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    The Emperor was very angry that Meng Jiangnu had made his Great Wall fall down, and ordered that she should be brought to him, to be punished. But when he met her and saw how beautiful this sorrowful lady was, he fell in love and decided to marry her.

    Meng Jiangnu had no choice but to agree, but she asked the Emperor for one favour before she married him: that Fan Ziliang be given a grand funeral. As soon as the funeral was over, she decided to escape from the Emperor to be with her husband forever and she threw herself gladly into the sea, to drown. The people of China built a temple near the Great Wall in memory of this beautiful, loyal lady, who loved her husband so much.

    So what is the secret to how the wall has lasted so long??

    The first Emperor of China, Q’in Shi Huang, who ordered the commencement of the Great Wall was buried in the world’s largest tomb, said to be booby trapped to protect it from intruders. Close to this tomb, undiscovered until 1973, stood an 8,000 strong army consisting of terracotta (clay) soldiers, horses, chariots and archers. These life size soldiers were individually handcrafted with immense detail, each one unique.

    xian_terracotta_army_hangar2 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Chinese belief in the afterlife- Why did the Emperor need a terracotta army?