25 Interesting Great Wall of China Facts to Know Before You Go

Summary:

The dozens of Great Wall of China facts are as impressive as this marvel of ancient architectural engineering. Get to know China’s Great Wall in this guide.

Known as one of the world’s seven wonders, all the Great Wall of China facts, photos, and history tell us that this series of fortification systems is truly worth exploring.

It’s one of the most famous man-made destinations to see in the world, hosting countless tourists from all around the world yearly. You’ve probably seen numerous pictures of it, but how much do you know about the Great Wall of China?

facts about the great wall of china selective focus photography
Taken by SOMEBODY via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Here are some Great Wall of China facts for you:

Architectural Great Wall Facts

1. The length of the Great Wall of China is 13,171 miles (21,196 kilometers), which equates to 69,542,880 feet (21,196,670 meters).

2. Start and endpoints of the Great Wall: The Great Wall of China begins in the west at the Jiayuguan Pass and ends in the east at Shanhai Pass.

3. Height of the Great Wall: This Great Wall fact is interesting, as the height of the Wall varies depending on its part. Yet, on average, the Great Wall of China is 20-23 feet (6-7 meters) off the ground. The tallest part of the Great Wall of China is nearly double the average height at about 46 feet (14 meters) high.

4. Great Wall initiator: It was Qin Shi Huang of the Qin dynasty who decided to build this world wonder. It’s believed that he ordered the construction of the Wall as the means to protect his kingdom from northern invaders. 

5. The number of steps the Great Wall has: Taking into account the span of the Great Wall, it is quite difficult to count how many steps there actually, as the exact number is probably in the tens of thousands. Yet, the Wall’s first section—known as the Stairway to Heaven—has 700 steps.

6. Wall watchtowers: The Ming dynasty built more than 1,000 watchtowers throughout the Great Wall that guards used to keep watch over the kingdom. These towers also served as sniping places for archers to fight against intruders.

Badaling section of the Great Wall of China facts
The Badaling section of the Great Wall of China is the most visited portion. Taken by Melissa via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Construction Great Wall Facts

7. The timeframe of construction: It’s estimated that the building of the Great Wall started in around 200 BC, and construction halted in 1644 after the Ming dynasty collapsed. Due to these events, the total age of the Great Wall is equal to 2,300 years old.

8. Details of construction: The various dynasties built new sections of the Wall and repaired its other parts as well.

9. The number of people who worked on the Great Wall: Over the 2,000+ years of construction, it’s estimated that at least 1 million people worked on the Great Wall.

10. Interestingly enough, workers used no cement or sand in its construction. Instead, sticky rice mortar was made to keep the bricks and blocks together.

11. Convicts helped with construction: The Ming dynasty was known for sentencing criminal convicts to hard labor at the sites of construction along the Wall.

Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China facts
This is the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China during the winter. Taken by D. Veksler via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

Cultural Facts about China’s Great Wall

12. The Great Wall and dynasties: For the 2,000-year construction, eight different dynasties managed the building. The dynasties that worked on the Great Wall construction include the Qin, Han, Wei, Qi, Sui, Liao, Jin, and the Ming dynasties.

13. Ming dynasty and the Great Wall: While over eight different dynasties were involved in the building, it was in the period of the Ming dynasty when the most grandiose and the most visible areas of the Wall were erected.

14. Ming dynasty’s section of the Great Wall: It’s estimated that the length of the Ming dynasty’s section is 5,500 miles (8,851 kilometers) long.

15. The reasoning behind the Great Wall’s construction: Like many other great lasting man-made structures from the past, the Great Wall of China was constructed as a means to protect the kingdom from enemies.

16. UNESCO World Heritage Site status: The Great Wall of China got its UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1987.

17. Daily visitors: The Great Wall of China is seen by approximately 10 million visitors every year. The tourist crowd is so huge that the Chinese government set a daily limit of visitors at certain areas of the Wall to help preserve the spots. 

18. Great Wall longevity: According to the National Cultural Heritage Association, about 22% of the Ming dynasty’s Great Wall has disappeared. In addition to natural erosion, it’s believed that vandalism is a primary contributor to the loss of the bricks.

19. Most popular parts of the Great Wall: The Badaling section of the Great Wall is often cited as the Wall’s most visited area.

20. Most well-preserved sections of the Great Wall: Many of the parts that were constructed under the Ming dynasty are well-preserved. However, the Badaling section has remained in good (best) condition, and it was also the first section that was opened to visitors. 

Simatai section of the Great Wall of China interesting facts
This gate and the crumbling ruins are part of the Simatai section of the Great Wall of China. Taken by Gigi via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

21. Steepest area of the Great Wall: The steepest part of the Great Wall is known as the Jiankou section, located in Beijing. Be careful if you’re going to trip there as it’s also the most dangerous place due to its unrestored nature.

22. China’s Great Wall runs through 15 different regions of China, including Jilin, Beijing, Heilongjiang, Qinghai, Tianjin, Ningxia, Shaanxi, Liaoning, Henan, Shandong, Shanxi, Hebel, and Inner Mongolia.

23. Looting of the bricks: During China’s cultural revolution, local villagers stole bricks from the Wall to rebuild their homes following bombing attacks. 

24. No federal protection for a long time: The Great Wall wasn’t governmentally protected until 2006. Now, it’s illegal to vandalize or take bricks from the Great Wall.

25. Politicians who visited the Great Wall: It’s estimated that over 300 heads of state and lots of VIPs from all over the world have traveled to the Great Wall of China.

Jinshanling section of the Great Wall of China facts
The Jinshanling section of the Great Wall of China. Taken by A. Triquet via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

China’s Great Wall is a stunning place to visit that’s jam-packed with fun and impressive historical data. This list provides only 25 facts about the Great Wall of China, but there’s certainly more to discover. Be sure to visit the Great Wall at least once to find out more about it. Also, check out our China travel guide for more on its host country!

Sonia Novakivska
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Sonia Novakivska
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