Great Wall F&Q

What? Where? How Long?
Common Questions and myths about the Great wall…

What/where is the Great Wall?

The Great Wall of China is the largest defense construction on earth, and the subject of the most mythology. It’s built in the northern part of China in ancient times to prevent the Han Chinese from attacking by nomads like the Huns and Mongolians. The Great Wall stretches from Shanhaiguan in the east to Jiayuguan in the western Gobi desert. The Great Wall does not work as a defense system anymore, and is becoming a popular travelers site now. It was listed as World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 1987.

How long is the Great Wall?

No one knows the exact length of Great Wall of China as it’s a discontinuous network of wall segments built by different dynasties. The Chinese call it “Ten-Thousand-Li-Wall” (Wan Li Chang Cheng).   It is said that the Qin Great Wall had a total length of more than 5000 kilometres and the Han Great Wall stretched more than 7000 kilometres, which is the longest ever. Little of the Qin and Han walls remains as the main building material were rammed earth. The Ming Great Wall meandered through 6000 kilometres from east to west with the construction of bricks and stone.

Is there anyone who walked the whole Great Wall?

Three Chinese walked the whole Great Wall between May 1984 and September 1985. They started the walking at Shanghaiguan in the east and competed at Jiayuguan in the west which is the Ming Great Wall. The adventure took 508 days on the Great Wall. Dong Yaohui, one of the three pioneers, is now the vice-president of China Great Wall Society and a well-known Great Wall Expert.   In 1987 Englishman William Lindesay traveled 2,470 km alone along the route of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall between Jiayuguan and Shanhaiguan, thus became the first foreigner who complete the who Great Wall. The experience led him to stay in China and carry out systematic and scholarly research of the wall. In 2001 Lindesay founded “International Friends of the Great Wall” (www.friendsofgreatwall.org) as a society in Hong Kong in order to “assist China’s cultural-relics protection authorities in the task of preserving the authenticity of the Great Wall.” His works includes Alone on the Great Wall and The Great Wall Revisited: From the Jade Gate to Old Dragon’s Head.

Is Great Wall visible from the moon?

Popular beliefs ranging from Ripley’s Believe It or Not!’s cartoons from 1930s, which claimed that the Great Wall is “the mightiest work of man, the only one that would be visible to the human eye from the moon,” to Richard Halliburton’s 1938 book Second Book of Marvels which makes a similar claim, have persisted, assuming urban legend status, and sometimes even appearing in school textbooks.   The Great Wall is a maximum 9 meter wide and is about the same color as the soil surrounding it. Based on the optics of resolving power (distance versus the width of the iris: a few millimeters for the human eye, meters for large telescopes) only an object of reasonable contrast to its surroundings 70 miles or more in diameter would be visible to the unaided eye from the moon, whose average distance from Earth is 384,393 km. The apparent width of the Great Wall from the moon is the same as that of a human hair viewed from 2 miles away. Unsurprisingly, no lunar astronaut has ever claimed seeing the Great Wall from the moon.   A more controversial question is whether the Wall is visible from low earth orbit, i.e., an altitude of as little as 100 miles (160 km). In October 2003, Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei stated that he had not been able to see the Great Wall of China.