Forspoken: The Great Wall of China

Forspoken: The Great Wall of China

The wall building played a major role in ancient Chinese culture. The ancient belief that walls provide protection from threats laid the foundation for the creation of the Great Wall of China. According to the Travel China Guide, over twenty states and dynasties contributed to the construction of the Great Wall of China. The construction commenced in the third century BC and lasted up until seventeenth century AD which makes it more than 2,300 years old. The Great Wall spread across to the Northern border of the country as a military defensive project to protect the Chinese state from the nomadic tribes from the North. According to the history, it was during the reign of Emperor Qin Shi Huang that the official constructions of the Great Wall commenced. The Great Wall begins from the East at Shanhaiguan in the Hebei province and ends at Jiayuguan in the Gansu province to the west with a total length of over 200,000 kilometers.

The main body of the Great Wall consisted of horse tracks, watch towers, shelters on the walls including fortresses and passes along the wall. The Great Wall is an embodiment of the farsighted Chinese culture as by creating a massive wall around the country their major concern was to provide security to its citizens from military attacks. Due to the significant architecture of the Great Wall is listed as a UNESCO heritage site. on the official website of UNESCO, they have remarked “It provides significant physical evidence of the far-sighted political strategic thinking and is an outstanding example of the superb military architecture, technology and art of ancient China ”. The Great Wall of China is an absolute masterpiece as it is the longest man-made creation on Earth.

Let’s consider some mysteries which encompass the great all of China.

As mentioned earlier the Great Wall of China was built solely through manpower as back then complex machinery were not available. So the Qin dynasty had to use every available resource for the construction of the Great Wall. He had a labor force of nearly 300,000. During his reign the construction of the wall was a community service for the convicted criminals who were guilty of crimes such as tax evasions. So along with the criminals, soldiers and commoners were used as manpower sources in the construction of the Great Wall. During the construction over thousands of men lost their lives as they all had to carry heavy materials on their backs to the top of the wall.

Due to the high demand of the labor force many criminals were conscripted to work in the construction of the Great Wall till their sentence period was over. But hardly these people came out from there alive due to the harsh conditions as I mentioned earlier. So if a criminal dies before the sentence period is over a family member should take the place in the construction till the sentence period is over. The Great Wall is popular not only for being the longest construction on the Earth but also for having the longest cemetery on the Earth. As the people who died during the construction were buried in the ground which is near to the Great Wall. As the poem which was written during the Han dynasty has shown:

“Don’t you just see beside the Long Wall?
Dead men’s skeletons prop each other up.”

It says due to the high demand for labor even young boys were taken by force to work in the wall construction. Which tore many families apart. And at the same times wives lost their husbands and children which put them economically and socially in a difficult position due to the high taxation. Though the major concern of building the Great Wall was to keep the nomads away from the Chinese empire and to secure Chinses state, a lot of Northern nomads were able to cross the Great Wall. And history shows the invasion of the Manchus lead to the collapse of the Ming dynasty proving the construction of the Great Wall as an emblem of security was wrong.

Another mystery of The Great Wall is though we all think the Great Wall was built as one continuous line the reality is it’s not built in one line. It is consisted of several walls as the construction was built during many dynasties resulting in some walls in liner structure and at some places the wall gets scattered into many walls.

Out of all the myths which were spreading of the Great Wall the story of Meng Jiangnu is the most famous. It tells a story of how a weeping of a woman resulted in the collapse of one section of the Great Wall. The story of Meng is being broadcasted throughout China through books and songs.


When we consider the construction of the Great Wall, a lot of factors have been attributed to its endurance and the strength that has made it able to last so long over the course of multiple generations. The Great Wall was built with bricks, wood, and stones. But the modern studies have shown the ancient engineers have used a special ingredient that has been attributed to its long lastingness. That is the staple rice of the Chinese diet known as sticky rice. The amylopectin of the rice which makes it sticky helped to hold the wall together for so many years.

During 1966 and 1976 miles of the Great Wall had been damaged due to the Proletarian Cultural Revolution. As the Chinese empire back then pulled bricks out of the Great Wall to build civilian houses, farms, and reservoirs. The pulling out of bricks has led to the destruction of a massive area of the wall which is still visible.

According to National Geography there are still sections of the Great Wall that are not still being discovered. As in 2012 researchers found with the help of Google maps a hidden section of the Great Wall which is roughly 100 kilometers in length deep in the Gobi Desert present day Mongolia. So there is a great possibility to discover new sections of the Great Wall which are being hidden from the human eye.

Bringing roosters to the Great Wall to honor the dead had been a tradition which was prevailed in the Chinese culture. Due to the massive loss of lives during the construction of the Great Wall, as a farewell to the dead the family members would bring roosters to the Great Wall to ensure their loved ones aren’t stuck to the structure of the wall. As they believe with the singing of the roosters can carry the souls of the dead people to heaven.

The Great Wall of China is a massive man-made architectural masterpiece. But even this masterpiece has its struggles. The Great Wall of China undergoes a lot of existential threats. As Travel China Guide has claimed that parts of the Great Wall of China is disappearing day by day due to various natural and human impacted erosions. According to the UNESCO statistics more than one third of the Great Wall has already vanished. So as humans we have a great responsibility in safeguarding these constructions for future generations to commemorate the capabilities of the earlier generations when man was not a puppet of technology.

– Rtr Tharuni Mendis

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