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Ancient China

The Great Wall

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What is it?

The Great Wall of China is a wall that covers much of the northern border of China. If you take the length of the entire wall, plus various branches, it is around 5,500 miles long! No wonder they call it the Great Wall.

Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China

Why did they build the wall?

The wall was built to help keep out northern invaders like the Mongols. Smaller walls had been built over the years, but the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, decided that he wanted a single giant wall to protect his northern borders. He ordered that a single strong wall be built with thousands of lookout towers where soldiers could guard and protect his empire.

Who built it?

The original Great Wall was started by the Qin Dynasty and following dynasties continued to work on it. Later the Ming Dynasty rebuilt the wall. Much of the Great Wall that we know today was built by the Ming Dynasty.

The wall was built by peasants, slaves, criminals, and other people that the emperor decided to punish. Soldiers were involved in building the wall and in managing the workers as well.

It is estimated that millions of people worked on the wall over the course of over 1000 years. Some scientists think that up to 1 million people died while building the wall. People building the wall were not treated very well. Many people were just buried under the wall when they died.

What did they build it with?

Generally the wall was built with whatever resources were available nearby. The earlier walls were built with compacted dirt surrounded by stone. Much of the later Ming wall was built with bricks.

Was it just a wall?

The wall was really a fortification to protect the northern border. It was a wall, but also had watchtowers, beacon towers to send signals, and blockhouses to house soldiers. There were soldiers guarding the walls and towers. There were also towns built along the wall to garrison soldiers so they could quickly get to the wall in case of a large attack. It is estimated that over 1 million soldiers guarded the great wall during the height of the Ming Dynasty.

Road on top of wall
A wide road on top of the wall where soldiers could defend

Fun Facts about the Great Wall of China Take a ten question quiz on the Great Wall of China questions page.

For more information on the civilization of Ancient China:

Timeline of Ancient China
Silk Road
The Great Wall
Forbidden City
Terracotta Army
Geography of Ancient China
Inventions of Ancient China
Glossary and Terms

Major Dynasties
Zhou Dynasty
Han Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
Song Dyanasty
Ming Dynasty

Daily Life in Ancient China
Numbers and Colors
Legend of Silk
Chinese Calendar
Civil Service
Chinese Art

Emperor Qin
Genghis Khan
Kublai Khan
Marco Polo
Sun Tzu
Zheng He

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