5 Things You Did Not Know About the Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China has made it into the list of some of the best man-made wonders of the world. This artefact was created around 2500 years ago before China was even considered a unified country. Since that period, the Great Wall has become a travel destination for people all over the world. In fact, in 1987, the Great Wall of China was listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
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It’s not really a wall
Names can be deceiving. The Great Wall of China is not really a wall. In fact, it is a series of overlapping walls, fortification, watchtowers, beacon towers, barracks, and trenches. The wall was initially built for the battle to defend the capital city of Beijing.
If you vigilantly inspect the structure of the Great Wall, you can see that there are shooting holes, watch holes, Wengcheng (barbican entrance), horse roads, water sprouts, and stone missile holes.
It hasn’t always been successful in its mission
The Great Wall of China, although built to keep the enemy out, hasn’t always been successful in its goal. It was initially intended to serve as a barrier between the Central Chinese Empire and the barbaric northern nomads. However, throughout history, several nomadic tribes have tricked their way across the barrier on many occasions. In fact, in the 13th century, the Genghis Khan leading the Mongols managed to pass through the substantial security of the wall to conquer the North and Central China.
The conquered land remained in his control over a hundred years. However, in 1644, the Manchus’ arrival from the Shanhaiguan marked the downfall and eventual termination of the Ming Dynasty.
It is not visible from outer space
In recent years, several rumours have spread that insist that the Great Wall of China is visible from space. This rumour was mainly a misperception caused by the large size of the wall. The Great Wall of China is approximately 21,196.18 km (13,170.70 miles) and 6- 4 meters (20-46 feet tall). However, despite its large size, several astronauts have testified to the fact that the wall is not visible from space.
One of the astronauts is Neil Armstrong himself. Neil Alden Armstrong, the first American man who landed on the moon in 1969, was asked if he had seen the Great Wall from space. On every occasion, he stated that although he didn’t see the Great Wall of China, he was able to make out the continent, lakes, and other natural phenomena. However, no man-made object was visible from space.
In addition to Neil Armstrong, another astronaut blatantly declared that the Great Wall is not visible from the space. Yang Liwei, China’s first astronaut, clearly stated that he couldn’t see the wall when he returned from his mission in 2003.
It is disappearing year by year
The tragic fact of the Great Wall is that it is disappearing slowly with time. In fact, UNESCO conducted an inspection that revealed that one-third of the total wall has already disappeared due to vandalism and climate conditions. Initially, the wall was built with rammed earth, which is now observed to be cracking rapidly. What’s left of it is just stone and brick construction. It is possible for the entire wall to collapse in a period of thirty years if proper maintenance is not conducted.
The greatest man-made damage to the wall occurred in the 1960s to the 1970s. During this era, miles and miles of the wall were vandalised, broken down and damaged to make room for new infrastructure, creation of farms, the building of civilian houses. Additionally, in the 1980s to 1990s, some bricks from the wall were removed and sold by robbers. The wall further suffered damage in this era as the ramparts were reduced for road or factory construction. However, in 2006, regulations about preserving the wall were passed by authority.
It is the biggest cemetery in the world
The Great Wall of China is, unfortunately, a cemetery as well. It is rumoured to host millions of bodies of labourers, construction workers and soldiers. However, there is no substantial evidence to support this as no bodies have been found up to this day. Although, the rumour does gain credibility from the legend of Meng Jiangnu’s Bitter Weeping. The legend narrates the story of a wife whose husband was taken by the officials to build the Great Wall of China.
However, he died of exhaustion early on and was buried within the wall. When the wife went to look for him and was told the tragic news, she sat at the entrance of the wall and cried for hours. Her cries were so loud that a 400 kilometre-long section of the wall collapsed.
This caught the attention of Emperor Qin Shihuang, who was ready to punish her. Although, when he laid his eyes on her, her beauty amazed him, and he asked her to marry him. After certain conditions, she agreed. When the Emperor Qin Shihuang was ready to take her to his palace, she jumped off into the Bohai Sea.
Although the story is fiction, it narrates the perspective of the Chinese commoners, who had to face adverse work conditions to build the wall. It is also reported that around one million people were forced to build the wall during the Qin Dynasty. However, only ten thousand of them survived. The deaths were caused by unsafe working conditions, starvation, and excessive weakness. It is also perceived that a lot of the labours were flogged to death by the officials. These individuals were buried in the wall, and the construction was carried out around their bodies.
Although the Great Wall of China is one of the man-made wonders of the world, the tragic story behind its construction can really change the perspective of how it is viewed. The wall may be a construction sensation, but it is also a cemetery of the oppressed.