Basic Facts: Length: 5,500 miles (8,850 kilometers) With all branches included, it measures 13,171 miles (21,196 kilometers) Started: Various walls were initiated as early as the 7th Century BC. But it was Shi Huang, in 220 BC, who is credited with starting what we now know as the Great Wall. The majority of the current wall was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Why was it built? Besides defense, it was also built for border control, so tariffs could be imposed on trade goods, and control of immigration and emigration.
During early construction of the wall, the labor force was made up of soldiers and convicts. It’s estimated over 400,000 lost their lives during the Shi Huang phase of construction. The dead were buried in the Wall and became part of it. While it is difficult to accurately assess, it is estimated the Wall cost the equivalent of 360 billion modern US dollars.
Most of the Wall as we know it now was built, or rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty. After Beijing was proclaimed the capital in 1421, construction on the Wall picked up.
The wall’s actual effectiveness is debated. It is agreed that it had a significant psychological effect for the country, as an emblem of strength against outsiders. While it was designed against Mongols from the north, support for it collapsed when China, instead of battling their neighbors, began trading and forged economic ties that benefited both sides.
While the Wall is a great tourist attraction these days, the reality is that throughout Chinese history, the Wall was view mostly in a negative light. As a sign of government oppression, cruelty and death.
A popular myth is that the Wall can be seen from space. The reality is that it can be, but only with assistance; not with the naked eye. Below, it is difficult to see the Wall; while the river is much more visible.
Interesting Facts about the Great Wall:
1. Rice Flour was used to make the cement to bind bricks for the Wall during its early construction.
2. Over 10 million tourists visit the Wall annually.
3. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) many bricks from the Great Wall were taken to construct buildings and even dams.
4. In many places the top of the Wall is so wide, a car can drive along it.
5. A mythical story is Men Jiangsu’s Bitter Weeping— where a woman whose husband died building the Wall, cried so bitterly, her tears collapsed a section of the Wall, so she could recover his body for proper burial.
Of course, there are those who postulate other theories about the purpose of the Great Wall. What if, built into the Wall, there is a message? Designed to be seen only from space, but only to those with the technology for space flight and the optics to discern it?
Two ancient rivals from another world are vying to dominate Earth, and Mike Turcotte and his team must choose which army to side with. The key to averting the crisis lies in a single weapon: Excalibur. The mythical, legendary sword of King Arthur is real and can unlock a galactic power beyond what anyone—human or alien—has ever seen. And Mike must keep it from falling into the wrong hands. The race to recover Excalibur will lead the players all across the globe—from the ancient pyramids to the Great Wall of China, from a fortress on Easter Island to the heights of Mount Everest—in a high-stakes game in which the fate of humanity is the ultimate prize.
A free slideshow on this topic and many others about interesting history, survival, writing and other topics is on my web site at www.bobmayer.com/workshops