History Podcasts

Great Wall of China Stairs

Great Wall of China Stairs

The Great Wall of China: The Hidden Story – Secret History Homeland Remember Me – review

S ome big revelations in The Great Wall of China: The Hidden Story – Secret History (Channel 4, Sunday). First, there’s not just one wall, but many. The Great Walls of China, at least 16 of them, built over 2,400 years by successive emperors and dynasties. Total length: 21,000km, three times longer than previously thought, longer than the distance between the poles. Eat your heart out Hadrian, Pink Floyd etc.

The idea was the same as Hadrian’s, though: to keep out uncouth marauding neighbours from the north: Scots, Mongols, they’re much of a muchness. Here are some, reconstructed Mongols, galloping thunderingly on horseback and firing their bows. Ooch aye the noo, Genghis, good arrers.

So how did they come up with the new figures? Technology, that’s how: aerial mapping, satellite images, 3D models, GPS, laser scanning. And drones. The helicopter drone has become an essential piece of kit in the making of television documentaries like this they breathe new life into the very ancient, using the very modern. These drones are good. They’re got five cameras and loads of mapping stuff – you can just fly them along the wall and they come back with everything you need to know about it.

Also required is a lot of martial music and a script full of drama and superlatives. It is “THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY feat of engineering in history” “one of the MOST ICONIC man-made structures on the planet” they’re using “GROUNDBREAKING science” and “CUTTING EDGE chemistry” to uncover the enigma at the heart of the WORLD’S GREATEST MEGASTRUCTURE”.

Always good to get a megastructure, a mega-something, anyway, in there. Basically it’s awesome. If the Great Wall(s) of China was a creature that swam in the sea in would be a great white shark, an APEX PREDATOR.

I could do with less hyperbole. It doesn’t need it it’s interesting enough in its own right. What else have they discovered, then, using all their groundbreaking science, technology and code-breaking? That they had a complex signalling system, early Chinese semaphore, to warn of attack. A red flag up the pole meant 50 Xiongnu coming. Three red flags? 200 Xiongnu coming. Big bonfire? 1,000 Xiongnu coming, etc. Xiongnu were terrifying early raiders – early Scots, basically. Big bonfire, squeaky bum time, in other words.

My favourite thing about the wall, and about the programme, comes from the CUTTING EDGE science. Top chemistry professor and expert in ancient building materials Dr Xiang has taken samples from the Ming dynasty wall, which was built after the Mongols – who had occupied China for over a century – were finally sent packing. He has found that the secret of the Ming wall’s strength and longevity lies not in the bricks but in the mortar. The whitish colour of the mortar was said, in legend, to be because it was made from ground-up human bones. Not so, says Xiang. The secret ingredient that went into the mortar, kept the WORLD’S GREATEST MEGASTRUCTURE standing for hundreds of years? Sticky rice. Isn’t that great? Take note, modern brickies: a sprinkle of rice in the mortar and it’ll last for ever Ben’s your uncle.

Just the one disappointment: you can’t see the wall, or walls, any of them, from space. That’s a lie.

Thank God that in Homeland (Channel 4, Sunday) Carrie has figured out her meds were being messed with. Because I’m not sure I could have taken more than one episode of Claire Danes ACTING MAD. Eyes popping out of her head, all that darting around, it’s too much. I’m also glad Brody turned out to be a hallucination, not the actual Brody. Because not only am I not missing him, I think it’s actually better without him. Certainly the whole thing has found new momentum and direction since he was (sadly) hanged*. This series has been brilliant. Like when someone you think is indispensable leaves the place you work at, and it’s actually better without them.

Anyway, this is not about Brody – this episode belongs to Saul, showing a previously unseen steely badassness. So hard! With that nail, and the guard? Go Saul! Oh … until he’s recaptured, by a bunch of red triangles. It’s all just a big video game isn’t it, modern warfare?

Remember Me (BBC1, Sunday)? Drip drip drip, ominous black clouds, drip drip drip, even more ominous, blacker clouds. Plus a hint of the mysterious orient. Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme . not the Simon and Garfunkel one, but another version, lots of other versions. Older, spookier versions.

Where’s Michael Palin gone, though? Boo! There he is. Woooooooooo. Scary.

24 facts about the Great Wall Of China

The great wall of China isn’t actually a single wall it is a network of fortifications. Most of them were built along what was then China’s northern borders in order to protect ancient Chinese states from various nomadic groups that lived on the steppes.

Parts of the Great Wall extend into present-day North Korea, Mongolia, and even southern Russia.

The Great Wall of China is generally wider at the base than at the top to increase its stability. The base of the Wall has an average width of 21 feet (6.5 meters). The top of the wall has an average width of 13 to 16 feet (4 to 5 meters), which can accommodate a roadway wide enough to let four horsemen ride abreast. The width allowed soldiers to transport weapons and other supplies. The walls on either side of the roadway are typically 1.3 to 1.6 feet (0.4 to 0.5 meters) thick.

The Chinese have had different names for the Great Wall during its long history. The historian Sima Qian (c. 145-86 BC), for example, called it the “Long Rampart(s)” in his work “Records of the Grand Historian.” Back then, the name referred to the walls erected during the Warring States period and those constructed during the reign of the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang (259 – 210 BC), who unified China and established the Qin Dynasty.

Another history text, “The Book of Song,” which was published in 493 AD, described the Great Wall as the “long wall of 10,000 miles.”

As the First Emperor had a reputation for cruelty, later dynasties avoided calling their additions to the Great Wall the “Long Rampart.” They used such terms as “barrier,” “outer fortress,” and “border wall.” More poetic names for the Great Wall included “the Earth Dragon” and “the Purple Frontier.” During the Qing dynasty (1636 – 1911), which was China’s last imperial dynasty, people simply called the Great Wall the “Long Wall.”

Many Chinese now call the Great Wall the “Long Wall of 10,000 Li.”

The ancient Chinese began building defensive walls millennia ago. The oldest known such wall is the Chu Great Wall, which is also called Fancheng. It was erected during the 7th century BC in the Spring and Autumn Period, which makes it roughly 2700 years old. The Chu Great Wall is 310 miles (500 kilometers) long and is U-shaped.

By contrast, the newest parts of the wall were constructed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Other dynasties that added to the Great Wall include the following:

• Qi Dynasty (1122 – 221 BC)
• Chu Dynasty (1115 – 223 BC)
• Yan Dynasty (1122 – 222 BC)
• Zhao Dynasty (403 – 222 BC)
• Wei Dynasty (403 -225 BC)
• Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC)
• Han Dynasty (202 BC- 220 AD)
• Northern Wei Dynasty (386 – 534)
• Northern Qi/Sui Dynasty (550 -618)
• Jin Dynasty (1115 – 1234)

After gaining control over all of China in 221 BC, Emperor Qin Shi Huang destroyed those parts of the Wall that had served as borders between the different states. He then had new walls constructed to unite the remaining fortifications and protect his empire from northern nomads called the Xiongnu.

Yes, the Badaling section of the wall makes a great day trip from Beijing.

Approximately 500.000 people take part in building of the wall.

The wall was ordered built by whatever warlord or emperor happened to be in charge at the time. The labor was done by peasants, soldiers, and whomever else who was able to be conscripted. In the earliest years, the people would have used clay. Later, bricks were used. As the workers died, they were buried near the wall.

Visitors should bear in mind that the wall is not one unbroken structure, but a series of walls. Some sections have been well preserved and repaired. Others have deteriorated over the centuries some are in ruins.

The first step is to choose a section. Badaling is the closest to Beijing and draws the biggest crowds. It is also well-restored and has guardrails and wide and wide walkways. Badaling is about 2.3 miles long, and visitors who don’t want to hike that distance do have the option of taking a cable car.

Simatai is known for its night tours. It is three miles long and very steep. The Wall goes over the reservoir and the more adventuresome travelers can take a zipline. People who visit in the day can enjoy the Sky Bridge and Heavenly Ladder, which boast spectacular views of mountain ridges.

Other parts of the Wall are “wild,” which means they haven’t yet been restored. It may be possible to camp in some areas, but campers will have to bring their own gear.

Jinshanling is 6.5 miles long and has both restored and wild sections. It runs along the Jinshanling Mountains, and visitors can enjoy five mountain passes and 67 watchtowers. It is remote enough to have relatively few visitors.

Spring and fall are the best seasons for visiting the Great Wall. It does get windy, and much of the Wall is exposed. The wise traveler will thus dress in layers.

The Great Wall of China includes guard towers, beacon towers, stairways, bridges and battlements.

The ancient Chinese used whatever they found on the ground to build the wall. They used stone, rocks, clay tiles, and lime. They even used wood, mud, hard packed dirt and rubble.

The Jiankou section of the Great Wall has the dangerous sky stair. The angle of ascent is between 70 and 80 degrees. The Simatai section has the ladder-like &lsquoStairway to Heaven&rsquo, an 85 degree slope which narrows to 30 centimeters wide in some places.

Thousands of battles have been fought at the Great Wall. The last one was in 1938 during th Sino-Japanese War. Bullet holes are still visible on the Wall at Gubeikou.

In China, the wall is called Wann Li Channg-Ch&rsquong. That means Long Wall of 10,000 Li. A li equals 0.3 of a mile.

Over 400 world leaders and famous people have visited the Badaling section of the Great Wall. These include President Obama, President Nixon, President Reagan, Norman Schwarzkopf, President George W. Bush, Queen Elizabeth II, and Japan&rsquos Emperor Akihito.

In 1984, Dong Yao-Hui and two companions, Zhang Yuan-Hua and Wu De-yu, set out to hike the entire length of the Ming Great Wall. It took them 17 months to traverse all 5500.3 miles of it. They became known as the first people to walk the entire length of the Ming portion of the Great Wall.

Their feat drew national attention to the wall. At the time, China was just emerging from the Cultural Revolution of the 60s and 70s, and the Great Wall had been neglected for decades. During their hike, Dong and his friends were horrified to see how much of the Wall had fallen into disrepair.

Dong eventually founded the Great Wall Society, which reported in 2014 that only 8.2 percent of the Wall is in good condition.

Yes. The Chinese have been working to protect the Great Wall -especially since UNESCO declared it A World Heritage Site in 1987. In 2006, for example, the State Council issued the “Regulation on the Protection of the Great Wall” to strengthen existing laws.

The Chinese government gave the job of protecting the Great Wall to the Cultural Relics Administrative Department.

In May 2019, tourism authorities decided to cap the number of visitors to the popular Badaling section of the Great Wall at 65,000 per day. The cap is intended to promote safety, reduce crowding, and prevent damage to the Wall.

No. Somehow, the myth started in 1904 that it was possible to see the Great Wall from the Moon’s surface. When Apollo astronauts visited the Moon in 1969, they found that this was not true. Years later, astronauts with the Chinese space program made the same discovery.

Astronauts who worked at the International Space Station (ISS), which is much closer to Earth than the moon also found they couldn’t see the Great Wall.

NASA eventually found that it was possible to photograph the Great Wall with low-orbit satellites using radar.

Yes. As already mentioned, the government of China wants to protect the Great Wall, so there are now rules designed to help preserve it. For example, people are no longer allowed to take bricks from the Wall as souvenirs or building materials. Littering, graffiti, and other types of vandalism are also forbidden.

Businesses are not allowed to construct buildings, roads or railway tracks near the Great Wall. Nor is anybody allowed to organize activities that aren’t open to the public.

The Chinese say the Great Wall is a dragon winding over the mountains. When you look at pictures you can see that's a fact. It really does look like a dragon.

In 2009, the Great Wall of China was estimated to be about 5500 miles (8850 kilometers) long. This turned out to be a gross underestimate.

Two years earlier, China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) began a survey of the Great Wall, which took them through 15 provinces. By the time the SACH had finished in 2012, they had mapped 13,170.7 miles (21,196.2 kilometers) of wall. The SACH also identified 43,721 “heritage sites” that included ruins, stretches of the Wall, and various fortifications and facilities.

Most of the existing wall was built during the Ming Dynasty, and this part is 5500.3 miles (8851.8 kilometers). The Ming Wall is the best-known section of the Great Wall, as part of it is in Beijing. The Ming Wall includes nine garrisons, 223 miles (359 kilometers) of trenches, and 1387 miles (2232 kilometers) of natural barriers like rivers and hills. The actual wall made up 3889 miles (6259 kilometers) of the Ming wall.

The Han Dynasty constructed 3728.2 miles (6000 kilometers) of wall.

Construction of the earliest sections began during the Spring and Autumn periods (770 &ndash 476 B.C.).

The average height of any given part of the Wall is around 25.6 feet (7.8 meters), while the tallest parts are 46 feet (14 meters) high.

The Great Wall of China also varies widely in altitude. The lowest part, which is Laolongtou or Old’s Dragon Head, ends at the Bohai Sea. It is thus at just sea level. By contrast, the highest point, which is in Huanglouwa, stands 4722.1 feet (1439.3 meters) high.

Walls are generally built to do either of two things: keep enemies out and keep citizens in. China was once a collection of states and kingdoms that fought each other and the nomads who came from the north. The states Zhongshan, Zhao, Yan, Wei, Qin, Qi, and Han all built walls to protect their own borders.

After China became one country, its emperors continued adding to the Great Wall to protect its northern borders.

10 facts about the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is an ancient series of walls and fortifications located in northern China, built around 500 years ago. Estimates of its length vary from 1,500 to 5,000 miles, but an archaeological survey carried out in 2012 by China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage suggested the wall is more than double than that length: some 13,000 miles – or 21,000km – long…

This competition is now closed

Published: August 5, 2020 at 9:55 am

How much do you know about the Great Wall of China? Why was it built, are there bodies buried in it, and can you really see the Wall from outer space? John Man, author of The Great Wall of China, separates facts from fiction…

It cannot be seen from the Moon

Though discredited by astronauts, the Moon version is still widely quoted as a “fact”. The truth was established once and for all during the first Chinese space flight in 2003, when astronaut Yang Liwei said he couldn’t see anything of it from orbit.

The Chinese don’t call the Wall ‘the Great Wall’

The Chinese term for the Wall emerges from a distant past – long before “the Great Wall” was used – when every city had its own wall. So fundamental was the connection between walls and cities that the Chinese used one word to cover them both, and they still do. There it is, in the Oxford Union Press’s standard concise dictionary: Chéng: “1. city 2. city wall”.

The Wall, of course, is rather more than a city wall, so Chinese adds an adjective, not “great” but “long”. So the Chinese for “the Great Wall”, cháng chéng, means Long City. And Long Wall. And Long Cities, or Long Walls, plural. There is a way to resolve the contradiction: peel back a city wall in your mind, stretch it out, put farms and garrisons along it, and there you have it – Great Wall(s) equals Long City/ies.

The Wall is not as old as you think

The Wall is widely thought to date back 2,000 years to just after 221 BC, when China was first unified. In fact, almost everything which is that old is no more than a mound of earth. The popular idea of the Wall derives from the stone, battlemented structure built by the Ming (1358–1644). Its maximum age is about 500 years.

There’s more than one Wall

The Wall is not an “it”. It’s a “them”, in the plural. They are in bits, and very few of them look like the glorious creation to which tourists go. Tame sections give way to wild ones – crumbling, overgrown, barred to walkers – and wild ones vanish into gaps made by roads and reservoirs. In many places, the Wall doubles, triples even quadruples itself. And all of these bits overlap each other in time. The sections you see around Beijing have ancient precedents, some of which run directly beneath the Wall. And these divided sections are as nothing compared to other walls of earth, which run westward in parallel lines and scattered segments.

How long did it take to build the Great Wall of China?

The Great Wall isn’t a single wall at all, but a series of bulwarks and fortifications. The first went up some four centuries before Qin Shi Huang, who became China’s first emperor in 221 BC, ordered a decade-long project to unite and expand these defences into a single barrier.

Construction to create the current 13,000 miles of wall continued, on and off, for more than two millennia. Much of what remains was built during the Ming Dynasty. While intended to keep out foreign invaders, Genghis Khan demonstrated how even a wall as great as this had a flaw. He marched his Mongol horde around one of the sides.

Did you know?

Sections of the Great Wall owe their longevity to a rather unusual mortar – glutinous rice flour. Just as strong and waterproof as cement, this ‘sticky rice’ sealed the bricks so tightly that weeds are unable to grow between them.

It is not a wall

Well, the Ming bits around Beijing are, but out west, brick and stone give way to earth: sometimes moulded by the elements into camel’s humps sometimes no more than a gentle bank sometimes nothing at all. And there is much more to the Wall than walls or banks: fortresses, barracks, guard-towers and beacon-towers stalk the main lines of the Wall in a sort of stretched-out halo.

It was not built to repel Mongols

The Wall was commissioned by the First Emperor who died in 210 BC, long before the emergence of the Mongols around AD 800. The threat then was from the Xiongnu, who possibly became the ancestors of the Huns. The classic confrontation with the Mongols occurred only from the late 14th century, when the Mongols were chased out of China by the Ming.

The Wall does not contain corpses

Ancient rumours speak of labourers being buried in the Wall. These probably emanated from a chief historian of the Han dynasty, Sima Qian, who criticised his own emperor by slighting his Qin predecessor. However, no bones have ever been found in the Wall and there is no evidence, written or archaeological, for the slander.

It never stopped an invasion

The Wall was easily overrun or avoided by northern tribes. In 1449, the Mongols inflicted a defeat on the Ming south of the Wall, and it was only during a period of peace (1571–1644) that it was completed. However, it fell to the Manchus in 1644 when a local Ming general opened the far eastern gate, Shanhaiguan, to the invaders.

It is not wide enough for five horses abreast

Well it is, but only on some sections around Beijing which were built as both wall and road. Other parts of the Ming wall, notably the ridge that runs over the peaks of Simatai, are only wide enough for a single person. Westwards there is often no walkway. Horses and soldiers had to march along the Wall’s base.

Marco Polo did in fact see it

True, Marco never mentioned it, which has been used as an argument that he never went to China. At the time (in the late 13th century) all China was ruled by the Mongols, so the wall had been redundant since the invaders devastated north China under Genghis Khan over 50 years earlier. The Mongols, who had ignored the Wall in war, had no need to mention it in peace. Marco must have crossed it several times on his journeys from Beijing to Kublai Khan’s palace in Xanadu (Shangdu), but had no reason to take any notice of it.

The core materials of the Great Wall’s construction were minerals, rocks, soil, brick, lime, ones, and wood. However, each material that was used highly depended on the area’s local resources at that time. For instance, walls in the plains are mostly built by lime and bricks while walls in the mountain are built with stones.

From 221–207 BC, the Qin Dynasty used glutinous rice flour (a type of rice grown mainly in Southeast and East Asia) for building the Great Wall using them as a “glue” to bind the bricks.

The Great Wall of China: A trip of a lifetime

Anyone who has studied history could have learnt about the Great Wall of China and what it means for the history of the Asian country.

However, not everyone has had an opportunity to visit this historical site which is one of the wonders of the World.

Fortunately, a group of three journalists from The New Times participated in a study tour organised by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and the Great Wall was part of the sites that would be visited.

Considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China or Chang Cheng in Mandarin was constructed in 220&ndash206 BC by Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a series of fortification built to protect the Chinese states and empires against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe.

Little of that wall remains however it was rebuilt, maintained, and enhanced over various dynasties, the majority of the existing wall is from the Ming Dynasty (1368&ndash1644).

It is globally recognised as one of the most impressive architectural feats in history. According to an archaeological survey, the entire wall with all of its branches measures 21,196 km.

We landed in China&rsquos capital -Beijing on May 9 and embarked on a 20-day study tour with about 30 journalists from nine African countries.

Ten days after our stay in Beijing, the dream came true as we left our Xijiao hotel on bus to the north-east part tour the Great Wall.

Before starting the ride, our guide Zhan Nam Nancy who is a tour guide gave us some instructions to follow. She told us that if someone among us feel tired or encounters any health problem they should descend immediately, she also advised us not to force ourselves to climb the steep stairs of the wall.

However none of would think of not climbing to the top of the wall and make history, the only challenge was that we were given only two hours to climb the wall and come back to where our bus was parked.

In this new technology era, it was impossible to start such a journey without taking &ldquoselfies&rdquo or photos as people start climbing the wall.

The parking is full of buses, taxis and private cars and many are buying tickets to enter. Some of them are Africans like ourselves but as you start climbing you begin hearing different languages being spoken.

Everyone was very friendly with some people helping each other by taking pictures or sharing water.

All tourists touring the Great Wall are instructed not to destroy the ecological environment like cutting trees, destroying flowers, littering, swimming or fishing in natural water around the wall. The guides advise people to maintain the hygiene of the site while minding their steps among others.

This fortification consists of a large pathway of cut stones between two fortified walls that crisscross hills, mostly made of stairs from the bottom to the top which makes it difficult to climb.

Some big canons used to protect ancient china and can be seen installed at the beginning of the Great wall. We met a group of South Africans who were coming down tired and they excitedly started telling us all the wonderful things we were going to see.

As we continued climbing the steep stairs, we met a smiling old couple from Nepal that had just seen an African man for the very first time. They couldn&rsquot speak English but their gestures showed that they wanted to take a photo with us, which we voluntarily granted and everyone beamed from ear to ear.

From Mexico, France, Pakistan, India, USA, Peru, Russia to name a few, different nationalities were represented among the tourists who all looked very happy to have accomplished the dream of climbing the wall.

We did not come across any Rwandan national. Someone might ask how we knew that! It is simple, whenever we saw any black person, we greeted them in Kinyarwanda to see if there were from Rwanda.

Meanwhile, after climbing the wall for a few meters, we heard men speaking Luganda, a dialect widely spoken in Uganda and surprisingly greeted them in their own language. Happy they were and we took a break having a conversation with them as they were coming down telling us how excited they were to have reached the top of the part of the wall.

The conversation we had with them brought more curiosity to us as we committed ourselves to finish the tiresome but inspirational adventure that would last more than an hour to reach the top of the wall.

Going forward, Samuel Abate who is an Ethiopian in our team recognised a compatriot from Addis Ababa who was also on a different mission in China and greeted him in Amharic as they went on taking pictures and exchanging contacts.

Not far from where they were standing, we could hear some people speaking Swahili: they were Kenyans. We approached them and together with a Ugandan in our group started singing the East African famous &ldquoWawaka moto&rdquo song as we climbed together until the end to get a medal or a t-shirt.

In every distance of about 200 meters, there are pavilions which were used as watch towers by Chinese soldiers to detect enemies.

For now, these kinds of small houses made by stones serve as both a reference for the past history and rest places for tourists who climb the Great Wall.

Not everyone can however make it to the Great Wall. In our group one person got weak and failed to climb before receiving first aid as she waited for the ambulance for further help.

For health persons, we were advised to take some rest before continuing with the journey to the top.

At the top of the Great wall, you get a magnificent view of china, Beijing and the other part of the wall located on the opposite hill.

It was relaxing to breathe fresh air from the green forest surrounding the wall and take memorable pictures.

Only people who reached the top are allowed to buy and wear gold medals from the art shop located there.

Descending was also another challenge as we were already tired and refreshments were finished but the fact that we were coming from one of the seven wonders of the planet gave us the energy to get to the bottom.

In her 70s, Rhonda came with her husband Lindsay from Australia to visit the Great Wall and other parts of Beijing as well as Shanghai.

Breathing heavily, the couple held hands as they took a short break at the top of the wall and revealed how their dream had come.

&ldquoI am very happy and excited that I managed to come and climb the Great Wall of China, this is the world heritage and was on a to do list, we promised ourselves to one day come here and it is good that we managed to climb to the very top despite our old age,&rdquo she says with a smile

&ldquoThis is really an incredible sightseeing experience and it tells how Chinese people were too strong and courageous to defend themselves, this place is worth visiting,&rdquo she added.

Zhan Nam, the tour guide at the Great wall said at least 30,000 people from all over the world climb the Great Wall every day. The fee to visit the Great Wall is 45 YUAN which is approximately Rwf5600.

Stairs on the Great Wall of China. How many people do you think have walked on them?

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The real question is how many people have fallen down them

Lol more true than you might think. The steps are on the Great Wall are tall as hell. I'm 6ɲ" and I had a hard time with them. I can't imagine how difficult it would be for smaller folks.

Also we should have ranked list but multiple falls

Me for sure. I visited a section that had not been restored, and was covered in about a foot of snow when I went. Very beautiful, almost died. 10/10.

I remember coming across some random church in France that had stone stairs that were heavily worn down from people walking on them (not as worn as these) and marveling at the thought of the. hundreds of thousands? millions. of times a foot pressed down on that rock in order to create that shape. I spent something like 30-45 minutes sitting across the square and watching people walk on them and thinking about it. thinking about how different the people were, how similar they were, how much time has passed since they were laid down.

I had a very similar experience to that at a bus stop in south West Virginia, I was just talking to people asking them about “their story” and they where all different but the roots where the same now whenever I see a large group of people I always think of all their stories

Very cool comment. thank you.

Similar thoughts went through my mind with the Bellini stairs at the Vatican, also worn away.

Is there a word for this kind of feeling, because I know what you're talking about. Although it seems almost indescribable

hundreds of thousands? millions. of times a foot pressed down on that rock in order to create that shape

You're guessing way low. Just consider, an office worker can rack up tens of thousands of footsteps in a single day despite spending significant portions of the day seated. A high traffic area can easily see similar or even far greater numbers, especially a tourist site which sees constant streams of heavy traffic all day long, that must be well into the hundreds of thousands of steps per day.

It's a lot harder to speculate over much larger periods of time, but for ancient structures it must be in the billions.


The Great Wall of China – History and characteristics

The Great Wall of China has infinite legends, including incorrectly that it is the only human-made work visible from the Moon. Its dimensions are unmatched in human history. At CurioSfera-Historia.com, we explain the history of the Great Wall of China, what it is like and much more.

Characteristics of the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is about 2,700 km long and stretches from Shanhaiguan in Hebei Province on the east coast to Jiayuguan in the western Gansu region.

However, its real length, counting the double, triple and even quadruple sections as well as the reinforcements of the doors and other strategic points, doubles at least those 2,700 km targeted, reaching almost 10,000 km. This is more than 20% of the planet’s circumference if we add to all of the above the most primitive sections.

Nearly 20,000 fortified watchtowers have been preserved on the same wall, as well as 10,000 beacons separated from the main section, and with all the stone and brick blocks used in the construction of the wall, a 1-meter-thick wall could be erected. and 5 meters high that would go around the planet ten times.

In reality, the term “Great Wall” designates a large number of long stretches built in different periods of Chinese history. From a good beginning, it was conceived, beyond its merely defensive function, as the limit of civilization.

In fact, the Chinese character that designates the wall is the same as that of the city, not in vain did the wall define an administrative entity that separated the organized and agricultural world of China from the chaotic barbarism of the nomads of the steppe. Thus, crossing the wall became synonymous with entering the civilized world.

History of the Great Wall of China

When, back in the year 221 a. C., the first emperor unified the territories of China, ordered General Meng Jian to join and expand a series of sections of wall already existing, built by the conquered peoples, in order to erect a barrier of a fixed nature that would slow down the advance of tribes from the north and northwest.

There are many legends and poems that sing about the hardness and the tremendous cost in human lives that the construction of the wall represented. Nearly 300,000 people participated in it, including soldiers, peasants, disgraced officials, prisoners and scholars who had disobeyed the order to burn the classical texts.

Every meter of wall is said to have cost one person his life not in vain, work was carried out in remote regions, both mountainous and desert, in conditions of extreme cold and heat, without adequate food or accommodation.

The state of the wall was, throughout its history, a true reflection of the power of China and its attitude towards neighboring nomadic peoples. Thus, in times of peace, it tended to be completely neglected, but when the neighboring towns became strong and became hostile, their original function as a barrier to the advance of the nomadic peoples of the steppes was recovered.

During the Han dynasty (221 BC-220 AD), the wall reached its maximum length by adding a section heading west towards Lop Nor to protect the Hexi corridor, located in Gansu, the gateway of the routes of silk running through Central Asia.

Over time, the various peoples of non-Chinese origin that occupied the northern regions of China built numerous sections of wall with the intention of protecting themselves against new waves of invaders.

The Great Wall of China from the Ming period

Most of the sections of the Great Wall of China that have been preserved to this day were built in the times of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Meandering along the mountain ridges, it is 6 meters wide at the base and 6 to 8.7 meters high.

At the top is a road paved with four layers of brick wide enough to allow four horses to pass straight ahead. Outwards it is protected by some battlements of considerable height, while on the inside it is protected by a parapet.

In the steps and valleys there are usually additional sections of wall, and every 70 meters there is usually a watchtower that is accessed through stone stairs, as well as ramps to allow access for the horses.

To all this we must add 10,000 additional beacons that allowed rapid communication from one point to another on the wall. During the day, the signals were made with smoke, while at night fire was used.

During the 7th century, a protocol was established according to which the signals had to travel a total of 1,064 km in 24 hours, and the size of the emitted signal had to be proportional to that of the attacking force.

Construction of the Great Wall of China

The first sections of the wall were built with materials typical of the area in accordance with the tamping technique so typical of Chinese works. First, a plank was erected on both sides of the wall and then layers and more layers of earth were deposited in the delimited space, well packed.

This planking measured, on average, about 4 meters in height and delimited a space equivalent to 80 m3 of earth arranged in layers between 8 and 10 cm thick (however, layers ranging between 3 and 20 have been found cm). Occasionally a layer of reed was sandwiched between those of dirt to shorten the drying process.

In the Gohi desert and the steppe regions, the wall was built with plants from the area, interspersing layers of palms with other less thick stones and earth. In the Tanm basin, the watchtowers were built with huge piles of brush and poplar logs interspersed with layers of well-packed clay. Regardless of the material, the technique was based on the superposition of successive layers previously rammed thoroughly.

The different layers of the walls are intertwined at the corners, and the upper part of the doors, with a square base, are finished with a pointed end to prevent the walls from collapsing.

In this same area, about a hundred beacons have been conserved, built with overlapping layers of well-packed earth or with sun-dried adobe bricks measuring 38 x 25 x 9 cm.

The watchtowers, with a square plan of 17 meters (slightly less as it ascends) and another 25 meters high, are distant from each other between 1.6 and 2.5 km and are always very close to the wall, both sides of it remains of scaffolding have been preserved on its walls.

In times of the Ming dynasty, the last great phase of wall construction, new techniques were introduced. Thus, unlike the western half of the wall, built according to the procedures used until then, the eastern section, built to protect the capital, Beijing, from attacks by Manchu and Mughals, was built with stone and brick on a filling of earth or well-tamped rubble.

The fortresses, in turn, like the one in Shanhaiguan, where the wall faces the sea, became small towns equipped with shelters and hiding places to shelter in case of attack, drawbridges, esplanades for the exercises of soldiers, barracks military and even a fortified enclosure outside the fortress that housed grain and animals.

Obviously, the construction of these buildings required a lot of time and not less money. Where once a simple man equipped with a wooden shovel, a bamboo basket to load the earth and several reusable wooden planks could build 5.5 meters of earth wall in a month, it took a hundred to build the same section, this time in stone or brick, which in turn implied that among those hundred there were people specialized in the work of such materials in addition to wood.

On the one hand, the stone had to be carved with the help of iron or steel hammers and chisels and, on the other hand, it had to be transported from the quarries, sometimes located on almost vertical slopes. paving to be able to work on them, and the stone slabs, up to 2 meters high and a ton of weight, were lifted by means of pulleys or winches.

Whenever possible, ramps were built to carry the stone blocks to the top of the wall, but in the steepest areas, pulleys and wooden poles had to be used as levers, or they were climbed freehand by hundreds of mens. The same happened with the monumental granite slabs that make up the base of the wall in Shanhaiguan, already touching the sea, up to 50 m long and 10 m wide.

The brick linings were made up of seven or eight overlapping layers and were fired in small kilns arranged along the span under construction. In excavations carried out in 1991, one of these kilns was found intact, with which 41 x 20 x 10 cm bricks were made, which shows that a total of 22 kilns were required for 1 meter of wall.

There was a very rigorous quality control: according to a 5th century source, if the supervisor was able to put his awl 2.5 cm into a brick, the worker was immediately euthanized and burned next to the wall.

From a stone inscription from the Ming period found in Jiayuguan where the date of 1540 is mentioned, together with the name of a supervisor, it is deduced that the reconstruction works in that section, consisting of the superposition on the previous rammed earth structure of new courses of bricks, until reaching the final height of 9 meters, took about a hundred years.

Post-Ming History (1644 - present)

  • Manchu people broke through the Shanhaiguan Pass and established the Qing Dynasty(1644 - 1911).
  • In 1957, the government of the Peoples' Republic of China renovated the Great Wall and opened it to the public.

In 1644, the Manchu people broke through the Shanhaiguan Pass and overthrew the Ming Dynasty by establishing the Qing Dynasty(1644 - 1911), another dynasty controlled by non-Han people. Since then, the long history of the construction and renovation of the Great Wall by feudal dynasties finally come to an end. The last feudal dynasty- the Qin Dynasty - had full confidence in its power and seldom restored or extended the Great Wall.

In 1957, the government of the Peoples' Republic of China renovated the Great Wall and opened it to the public.

Great Wall Hiking:

It is recommended to book a guide and a tour operator to make arrangements for hiking, trekking, walking and camping to the Great Wall of China. It seems that visitors travelling on their own can easily reach the sections open for tourists and buy a pass. But in actual it is not that easy, the hiking of some sections is very complicated and inexperienced people can meet through big troubles if they are travelling on their own.

Can visitors go to all the sections of the Great Wall of China?

Not all sections are not open to foreign travelers. Some of the sections are not safe to visit as the walls are in very poor condition. Some sections had already vanished and some sections are located in the mid of native towns so you cannot visit them.

Is there a pass to visit the Great Wall of China?

Yes, you have to pay to get the pass. Usually, when you book a guide or tour group the charges of the pass are included in the package.

Do the visitors need to pre-book their passes?

It is not mandatory to pre-book your passes but it is recommended to pre-book your passes to avoid any hassle and long waits.

Are the cable cars at the Great Wall of China expensive?

Yes! They are expensive, that&rsquos why most of the visitors don`t book a cable car and prefer to walk.

Is it safe to go with a child?

All sections are not ideal to visit with children or disable peoples. A brief description of popular sections as mentioned above under the heading of Great Wall Hiking.

Is the Great Wall of China a haunted place?

Many people have constructed false stories regarding paranormal activities at some locations. But most of the visitors have experienced no such activities at the Great Wall of China. So we can count those stories untrue.

Did the Great wall of China work?

As the current defense condition of China doesn&rsquot require a protect its northern borders so the wall is only serving the purpose of an emblem.

In the past, it successfully stopped many invasions and secured the silk road trade route as well. But the strategy didn&rsquot work out when Genghis Khan and Manchus attacked China.