The making of the Great Wall of China

Last Updated: January 09,2019

China's own wonder of the world is unique in its own credit attracting millions of tourists from all over the world. If you have been planning to visit this architectural wonder, we strongly recommend knowing a little bit of history behind it. It will make your visit more memorable. In this article, we have covered an in-depth understanding of the history of making the wall. 

The Beginning

Although the First Emperor of Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC) has been widely regarded as the person who built the wall, there have been several actions of building and rebuilding the monument by several dynasties and governments both before and after him.

The beginning of building was done by the three warring states of China - Qin, Zhao and Yan when they built walls to border their kingdom somewhere between 476 BC to 221 BC. When the states of the country were unified during the beginning of the Qin Dynasty. China's first emperor Qin Shihuang of the Terracotta Army fame linked the walls of Qin, Zhao and Yan. This was roughly between 221 - 207 BC. Thus formed the first Qin Dynasty Great Wall which was 5000 kilometres long which was named 'Wan-Li ChangChen' or the 'Ten Thousand Li Great Wall' where a Li denotes half a kilometre. You can locate a nicely preserved section of this Qin Great Wall in Baotou which is not a popular tourist spot but is worth a visit nonetheless. 

The building and rebuilding continued…

The Great Wall was actually built by at least six dynasties starting with the warring states in 476 BC and stretching up to the Ming Dynasty in 1644. Later, the Chinese government conducted restoration and reconstruction activities to preserve this historic monument. 

Who actually built The Great Wall?

While the actual credit has been taken away by the emperors of the various dynasties, the people who did the actual work are peasants, soldiers and prisoners. Out of these, the soldiers led by generals did the majority of the work and are often regarded as the main labour force behind the Wall. 

Male farmers helped enormously as well. Their efforts gave rise to the famous Legend of Meng Jiangnv who's tears led to the collapse of the Wall. Arrested rebels are the third group of people who contributed greatly to this building of the Wall. The rebels were forcefully made to work on the construction.

The Great Wall was built over 2000 years and extends over 20,000 kilometres. Millions of workers have worked over the years to build it. As per records of various historians, 300,000 soldiers were engaged in the work during the Qin Dynasty itself. It is a common belief that thousands of workers died while building The Great Wall and are still buried under it. 

The legends of buried bodies inside the Great Wall

There are several legends depicting that there are bodies buried under The Great Wall, the most famous being the story of 'Meng Jiang Nu' whose husband was buried under The Great Wall and she wept till The Great Wall collapsed. However, the truth is, to date, no real evidence of dead bodies has been found. In fact, it doesn't make sense burying bodies under the wall because once the bodies decompose, they would have weakened the structure. 

A synopsis of the building of The Great Wall

476-221 BC The period of the Warring StatesThe building of Kingdom border walls

221-207 BC The Qin DynastyUnification of the walls by the First Emperor Qin

206 BC - 220 AD The Han DynastyExtension of The Great Wall upto the Yu Pass by Emperor Han Wudi

1368-1644 The Ming DynastyThe rebuilding of The Great Wall by General Qi Jiguang

1957 People's Republic of ChinaThe rebuilding of the Badaling section of The Great Wall by Mao Zedong

1978 - till dateTourism on The Great WallTourism and restoration work started following Deng Xiaoping's reforms

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