Total solar eclipse on the great wall of China
Aug 1, 2008
i think the great wall it da best thing i ever saw"
Have your say
The Great Wall of China (Wànlǐ Chángchéng; literally
"10,000 Li¹ long wall") is a Chinese fortification built from the
3rd century BC until the beginning of the 17th century, in order to
protect the various dynasties from raids by Mongol, Turkic, and
other nomadic tribes coming from areas in modern-day Mongolia and
Manchuria. Several walls were built since the 3rd century BC, the
most famous being the Great Wall of China built between 220 BC and
200 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huangdi (this was
located much further north than the current Great Wall of China
built during the Ming Dynasty, and little of it remains).
The Wall stretches over a formidable 6352 km (3,948 miles), from Shanhai Pass
on the Bohai Sea in the east, at the limit between "China proper" and Manchuria,
to Lop Nur in the southeastern portion of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region .
Along most of its arc, it roughly delineates the border between North China and
History of the Great Wall of China
A defensive wall on the northern border was built and maintained by several
dynasties at different times in Chinese history. Its purpose was to defend the
China heartland from Mongol and Turkic nomads. There have been five major walls:
- 208 BCE (Qin Dynasty)
- 1st century BCE (Han Dynasty)
- 7th century CE (Sui Dynasty)
- 1138–1198 (Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period)
- 1368–1640 (from Hongwu Emperor until Wanli Emperor of the Ming Dynasty)
The first major wall was built during the reign of the first Emperor of
China, Qin Shi Huang. This wall was not constructed as a single endeavour, but
was mostly the product of joining several regional walls built by the Warring
States. The walls that were linked together at this time consisted of rammed
earth with watch towers built at regular intervals. It was located much further
north than the current Great Wall with its eastern end at modern day North
Korea. Very little of this first wall remains; photos reveal a low, long mound.
The government ordered people to work on the wall, and workers were under
perpetual danger of being attacked by brigands. Because many people died while
building the wall, it has obtained the gruesome title, "longest cemetery on
Earth" or "the long graveyard". Possibly as many as one million workers died
building the wall, though the true numbers cannot be determined now. The people
that died were not buried in the wall, since decomposing bodies would have
weakened the structure.
The later long walls built by the Han, the Sui, and the Ten Kingdoms period
were also built along the same design. They were made of rammed earth with
multi-story watch towers built every few miles. These walls have also largely
vanished into the surrounding landscape, eroded away by wind and rain.
In military terms, these walls were more frontier demarcations than defensive
fortifications of worth. Certainly Chinese military strategy did not revolve
around holding the wall; instead, it was the cities themselves that were
The Great Wall which tourists visit today was built during the Ming Dynasty,
starting around the year 1368 and lasting till around 1640. Work on the wall
started as soon as the Ming took control of China but, initially, walls were not
the Ming's preferred response to raids out of the north. That attitude began to
change in response to the Ming's inability to defeat the Oirat war leader Esen
Taiji in the period 1449 to 1454. A huge Ming Dynasty army with the Zhengtong
Emperor at its head was annihilated in battle and the Emperor himself held
hostage in 1449.
Apparently the real focus on wall building started as a result of Altan
Khan's siege of Beijing which took place one hundred years later in 1550. The
Ming, faced with the choice of trying to defeat the Mongols with direct military
force, chose instead to build a massive defensive barrier to protect China. As a
result, most of the Ming Great Wall was built in the period 1560 to 1640. This
new wall was built on a grand scale with longer lasting materials (solid stone
used for the sides and the top of the Wall) than any wall built before.
The Ming Dynasty Great Wall starts on the eastern end at Shanhai Pass, near
Qinhuangdao, in Hebei Province, next to Bohai Gulf. Spanning nine provinces and
100 counties, the final 500 km (~300 mi) have all but turned to rubble, and
today it ends on the western end at the historic site of Jiayuguan Pass (also
called Jiayu Pass) (嘉峪关), located in northwest Gansu Province at the limit of
the Gobi Desert and the oases of the Silk Road. Jiayuguan Pass was intended to
greet travellers along the Silk Road. Even though The Great Wall ends at Jiayu
Pass, there are many watchtowers (烽火台 fēng huǒ tái) extending beyond Jiayu Pass
along the Silk Road. These towers communicated by smoke to signal invasion.
In 1644, the Kokes Manchus crossed the Wall by convincing an important
general Wu Sangui to open the gates of Shanhai Pass and allow the Manchus to
cross. Legend has it that it took three days for the Manchu armies to pass.
After the Manchu conquered China, the Wall was of no strategic value, mainly
because the Manchu extended their political control far to the north. See more
on the Manchu Dynasty.
Before the Second Sino-Japanese War, as a result of the failed defence of the
Great Wall, the Great Wall became a de facto border between the Republic of
China and Manchukuo.
While some portions near tourist centers have been preserved and even
reconstructed, in many locations the Wall is in disrepair, serving as a
playground for some villages and a source of stones to rebuild houses and roads.
Sections of the Wall are also prone to graffiti. Parts have been destroyed
because the Wall is in the way of construction sites. Intact or repaired
portions of the Wall near developed tourist areas are often plagued with hawkers
of tourist kitsch. The Gobi Desert is also encroaching on the wall in some
places. Some estimates say that only 20% of the wall is in a good condition. In
2005, pictures of a rave party on the Great Wall surfaced in the Chinese media
Watchtowers and barracks
The wall is complemented by defensive fighting stations, to which wall
defenders may retreat if overwhelmed. Each tower has unique and restricted
stairways and entries to confuse attackers. Barracks and administrative centers
are located at larger intervals.
The materials used are those available near the wall itself. Near Beijing the
wall is constructed from quarried limestone blocks. In other locations it may be
quarried granite or fired brick. Where such materials are used, two finished
walls are erected with packed earth and rubble fill placed in between with a
final paving to form a single unit. In some areas the blocks were cemented with
a mixture of sticky rice and egg whites.
In the extreme western desert locations, where good materials are scarce, the
wall was constructed from dirt rammed between rough wood tied together with
The Wall is included in lists of the "Seven Medieval Wonders of the World"
but was of course not one of the classical "Seven Wonders of the World"
recognized by the ancient Greeks.
The Wall was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Mao Zedong had a saying, Bú dào Chángchéng fēi hǎo hàn,
roughly meaning "you're not a real man if you haven't climbed the Great Wall".
From outer space
There is a long standing disagreement about how visible the wall is from
Richard Halliburton's 1938 book Second Book of Marvels said the Great
Wall is the only man-made object visible from the moon, and a Ripley's
Believe It or Not! cartoon from the same decade makes a similar claim. This
popular belief has persisted, assuming urban legend status, sometimes even
entering school textbooks. Arthur Waldron, author of the single most
authoritative history of the Great Wall written in any language, has speculated
that the belief about the Great Wall's visibility from outer space might go way
back to the fascination with the "canals" once believed to exist on Mars. (The
logic was simple: If people on Earth can see the Martians' canals, the Martians
might be able to see the Great Wall.)
In fact, the Great Wall is only a few meters wide—sized similar to highways
and airport runways - and is about the same color as the soil surrounding it. It
cannot be seen by the unaided eye from the distance of the moon, much less that
of Mars. The distance from Earth to the moon is about a thousand times greater
than the distance from the Earth to a spacecraft in near-Earth orbit. If the
Great Wall were visible from the moon, it would be easy to see from near-Earth
orbit. In fact, from near-Earth orbit it is barely visible, and only under
nearly perfect conditions, and it is no more conspicuous than many other manmade
Astronaut William Pogue thought he had seen it from Skylab but discovered he
was actually looking at the Grand Canal of China near Beijing. He spotted the
Great Wall with binoculars, but said that "it wasn't visible to the unaided
eye." US Senator Jake Garn claimed to be able to see the Great Wall with the
naked eye from a space shuttle orbit in the early 1980s, but his claim has been
disputed by several professional US astronauts. Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei
said he could not see it at all.
Veteran US astronaut Gene Cernan has stated: "At Earth orbit of 160 km to 320
km high, the Great Wall of China is, indeed, visible to the naked eye." Ed Lu,
Expedition 7 Science Officer aboard the International Space Station, adds that,
"it's less visible than a lot of other objects. And you have to know where to
Neil Armstrong also stated:
- (On Apollo 11)I do not believe that, at least with my eyes, there would be
any man-made object that I could see. I have not yet found somebody who has told
me they've seen the Wall of China from Earth orbit. I'm not going to say there
aren't people, but I personally haven't talked to them. I've asked various
people, particularly Shuttle guys, that have been many orbits around China in
the daytime, and the ones I've talked to didn't see it. 
Leroy Chiao, a Chinese-American astronaut, took a photograph from the
International Space Station that shows the wall. It was so indistinct that the
photographer was not certain he had actually captured it. Based on the
photograph, the state-run China Daily newspaper concluded that the Great
Wall can be seen from space with the naked eye, under favourable viewing
conditions, if one knows exactly where to look .
These inconsistent results suggest the visibility of the Great Wall depends
greatly on the seeing conditions, and also the direction of the light (oblique
lighting increasing the angular size of the Wall through the addition of a
shadow to the physical width of the Wall). Features on the moon that are
dramatically visible at times can be undetectable on others, due to changes in