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Friday Fun Facts About The Great Wall of China

BEIJING, CHINA – MARCH 31: Badaling Great Wall principal venue beijng of the Earth Hour 2012 power switch off on March 31, 2012 in Beijing, China. About 124 Chinese cities joined a WWF worldwide initiative Earth Hour, to call on people to switch off unnecessary lights for one hour tonight, in support for energy-saving efforts and global warming prevention as a shared responsibility.(Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Over the years there have been discussions about building a wall along the southern border of the United States. Cost, and effectiveness are often put forth as reasons for not building it. But there is at least one nation on earth that did put up a wall to protect its borders and that would be the Great Wall of China. Here are a few facts you might not have knows about this architectural marvel.

Fun Facts About The Great Wall of China

  • The Great Wall of China is the longest man made structure on earth.
  • Although it is big, one of the many myths about the Great Wall is that it is visible from space. Although it is big enough, the coloring of the wall make it almost impossible to distinguish from the surrounding rocky terrain that’s similar in color.
  • Another myth is that the wall is continuous. The wall was originally conceived to protect China’s northern border. It was built in pieces by the different ruling dynasties over the years. Genghis Kahn simply went around gaps in the wall to defeat and rule all of China until 1368 when the Ming Dynasty defeated him. Sounds a lot like our southern wall.
  • To put the size of the wall in perspective it is longer than the 24,854 miles that measure the circumference of the earth. Over the past 2,000 years all the walls and spurs add up to 31,070 miles. It’s approximately 25 feet high and 15-30 feet wide in some spots. Periodic observation towers can reach 40 feet high.
  • Who laid out the path of the Great Wall? No one human. Legend says engineers just followed the tracks of a dragon.
  • During the Ming Dynasty over one million soldiers manned their stations on the wall. The same number of those who died building it.
  • Pretty tough to build a 30,000 mile long wall without wheelbarrows so the Chinese invented the wheelbarrow.
  • Another myth is that the mortar was made of ground up human bones. Rice flour was the sole substance used, so no bones.
  • There is concern that in the next 20 years erosion will destroy some sections of the Great Wall unless extensive restoration takes place.
  • Defenders of the Great Wall used whatever they could. Everything from axes, sledgehammers, spears, crossbows and another of their inventions — gunpowder were used to ward off attacks.

Some Final Thoughts

When we look at marvels like the Great Wall I can’t help but think that while it is an engineering marvel the human cost was very high. Peasants, convicts and people who had fallen out of favor with the ruling powers built the wall. In other words, slave labor.

Over 1 million people died in its construction. I would hope that those of you who have had the opportunity to walk that wall would remember that everything has its price.

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