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What is the Great Wall of China?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco

The Great Wall of China is one of the most famous historical megastructures and the world's longest structure created by man, even bigger than the pyramids and other colossal constructions. Despite a popular claim to the contrary, it is not visible from the Moon, although it is barely visible from near earth orbit.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Great Wall of China is a protected space that has gained even more fame over the past decade because of international efforts to preserve sections that are falling into disrepair. Vandalism is one of the reasons the wall has suffered enormously over the past two decades. Local sellers often pick it apart to sell the parts to tourists.

A map of China.
A map of China.

The Great Wall of China was started inn the 5th century BC by the Qin Dynasty to protect the kingdom from attacks by the Xiongnu people. However, by the time construction started, there were already numerous towers and fortifications already standing. The construction of the wall was meant to join the different forts into one long structure and it took centuries to complete. Started, stopped, demolished, and rebuilt along the way, the Great Wall of China as it stands today was finished in the 16th century.

Construction of the Great Wall of China began around 5th century B.C. and stopped around the 16th century.
Construction of the Great Wall of China began around 5th century B.C. and stopped around the 16th century.

The structure is 4,000 miles (6,400 km) long and up to 26 feet (8 meters) in height. It has many watchtowers and towers along its length. The most popular sections with tourists are the ones near Beijing, especially Juyongguan pass and the Mutianyu Great Wall. The Shanhaiguan Great Wall, built as a bridge, is another popular stop for tourists walking along the wall. Most of it is constructed of bricks, although early parts are made of stones, earth, and tiles. To modern visitors, it looks remarkably similar along its length, but this is mostly due to the effect of wind erosion on the surface of the wall.

Discussion Comments


The Great Wall of China was built as a barrier to "barbarians". It never was able to protect central China from invasions. The Huns, the Mongles and the Manchurians all found their ways to break into the Walls. Nonetheless, Great Wall became the symbol of China and national spirit which can be best represented by the Chinese National Anthem "March of the Volunteers", a song originated at the beginning of Japanese invasion into China in 1937. Here is what it sings:

Arise! All who refuse to be slaves!

Let our flesh and blood build our new Great Wall!

As the Chinese nation faces its greatest peril,

All forcefully expend their last cries.

Arise! Arise! Arise!

Millions with one determination and hearts as one,

Brave the enemy's fire, March on!

Brave the enemy's fire, March on!

March on! March on! On!

Millions were inspired by this song to march onto the battle fields to defend China to their last breaths.

It was said a lot of songs were submitted for National Anthem. Only "The March of the Volunteers" has the honor.

Where the physical Great Wall failed, people who refused to be conquered built another new Great Wall with determination, blood and flesh to fight the invaders to the end. They won.


This is a short article well written about a great architecture. The section close to Beijing is for tourists' attraction, quite crowded on any given day now days.

When I visited exactly the same section 40 years ago on a winter day in 1969, not a single soul in sight. It wasn't a visitors' attraction at all back then. The only thing I heard was the whipping sound of wind. Within the Wall, I could see human habitats. Outside the Wall, nothing but wind, sand and wilderness. Of course there were no more Xiongnu (the Huns) or the Mongols threatening invasion into Central China anymore. However this piece of history endured time, violence, sand and wind. I was really awed by the scene. The reason our ancestors built this Wall really hit me at that time. The Great Wall humbled me.

If you walk the Great Wall section close to Beijing and climb all the way to the highest point, you'll be awarded by a magnificent view. "If you never have reached the Great Wall, you are not a true man". Right there, you'll get your True Man's "certificate".

I visited it Great Wall again in 1994. It was a totally different experience than my first visit, which I treasure more than anything.


I had the good fortune of visiting the Great Wall near Beijing in early spring. I walked that portion of the wall open to visitors. The walk is rather strenuous, since for the most part the wall is steep with many uneven stairs. Of course you do not have to go all the way to the end, since you have to turn around and go back the same way you came. The view from the wall is absolutely spectacular. It was an awe inspiring, and a memorable experience.

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    • A map of China.
      By: pavalena
      A map of China.
    • Construction of the Great Wall of China began around 5th century B.C. and stopped around the 16th century.
      By: jjuncadella
      Construction of the Great Wall of China began around 5th century B.C. and stopped around the 16th century.