Who Built the Great Wall of China?
Anything on the scale of the Great Wall of China is going to be difficult to describe. While the Great Wall of China is not actually “visible from space” as many people believe, it is a truly massive manmade object, stretching for more than 3,700 miles in its entirety. Since the Great Wall of China was built across many centuries by many different people, it is impossible to point to one person or group of people and say they alone built the Great Wall.
Some history books give credit for building the Great Wall to one Emperor, Qin Shihuang. This is not exactly inaccurate, as Qin Shihuang certainly had a hand in the wall’s construction. Still other historians give credit for building the wall to everyday working class types in ancient China, and these people aren’t entirely wrong either. Many everyday Chinese contributed to the construction and upkeep of the wall, and still do.
What Was the Purpose of the Great Wall of China?
Ruling powers during the Warring State Period built small walls as a defense against invasion by the northern nomadic tribes and other enemies. The first state to build such a wall was Chu which reigned from the 11th Century BC-223BC. Soon, the states of Qi, Yan, Wei, Zhao and Qin were also building walls to help protect from invasion. Once Emperor Qin Shihuang unified these six states, he ordered his generals to connect the existing walls and to extend them to create the ultimate wall to protect against nomadic invasion. This extended and unified wall is the first that can be called the Great Wall. It extended from Lintao in the west all the way to Liaodong in the east. This wall was at the time called “Wan Li Chang Cheng” (The Long Wall of 10,000 Li).
What Type of People Built the Great Wall of China?
There are three distinct groups of people who were responsible for building the wall. Originally, Emperor Shihuang used his soldiers and a few commoners to piece the wall together. Eventually, criminals were used for the more difficult or dangerous work. The Great Wall claimed many lives during its construction, thanks to extremely difficult and dangerous work, a short and hurried construction period, and bad weather and geographical conditions. Though we’ll never know how many died to build it, the number must be massive. Estimates by historians and other scientists suggest that as many as a million people died during the lengthy construction period.
Great Wall of China Facts
The Chinese invented the wheelbarrow for use during the building of the Great Wall.
Before the Ming dynasty, the wall was built with rammed earth, adobe, and stone. About 70% is made from rammed earth and adobe. Bricks were used after the Ming dynasty.
The Great Wall of China is the longest man-made structure in the world.
The famous watchtowers built at regular intervals along the Great Wall are up to 40 feet tall. These towers were used as lookouts and fortresses as well as for housing troops and for caches of supplies. They were also used as signal stations, where smoke or flags were used to relay messages. They also represented a tremendous diversity of architectural styles.
The length of all Chinese defense walls built over the last 2,000 years is approximately 31,070 miles, much longer than the circumference of the entire Earth.
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