Great Wall Construction

Great Wall Structure
Great Wall Structure Illustration

The history of the construction of the Great Wall of China can be dated back to the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC - 771 BC). But the wall at that time was only a line of fortresses standing to defend against attacks from the Yanyun (an ancient nomadic tribe in north China). The Period of the Warring States (476 BC - 221 BC) was an era when the seven states (Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei, Qin) were busy engaging in the wall construction for self-defense. Instead of one line, their walls stretched in the four directions and varied in length from several hundred miles to one or two thousand miles.

In the Qin Dynasty (221 - 206 BC) the emperor Qin Shihuang ordered his laborers to connect these scattered walls and create some new sections, thus forming a Great Wall in northern and central China in the true sense. The Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) further developed the defensive system of the wall and strengthened it on a larger scale. It pushed the wall construction to its highest peak.

Battlement Wall with Loopholes
Battlement Wall with Loopholes

 Great Wall Construction Pictures

The winding Great Wall is not merely a wall but instead a complete and rigorous defense project composed of countless passes, watchtowers, garrison towns, beacon towers and blockhouses.  These fortifications were arranged in certain ways under the control of the military command system at all levels. For example, there were about 1,000,000 soldiers guarding the Ming's Great Wall. The chief military officers were stationed in garrison-towns, while lesser officials and soldiers were stationed in Guan Cheng (the defensive beachhead) and other smaller fortifications. The eleven garrisons were set up along the wall in order to guard the precinct or subsection.

The average height of the Ming's wall measures 33 feet and the width is about five yards. In low, flat areas the wall was built high and more defense lines were added. In the lofty mountains, the wall was a little lower in order to save the human and financial cost. Sometimes, even steep cliffs served as natural wallsF to thwart enemies.

Today, the Great Wall has lost its military function, but as a great ancient engineering work, its magnificent beauty and austere structure are still worthy appreciating.


- Last updated on Jul. 21, 2023 -
Questions & Answers on Great Wall Construction
Asked by bobby | Jan. 12, 2023 15:18Reply
what were the conditions the workers of the wall were in? what was their sleep/rest condition?
Answers (2)
Answered by Justine | Jan. 12, 2023 17:50

Not good, I suppose. On one hand, their work places were outdoor in the far wildness; on the other hand, it could cost a lot to provide good living environment to workers while the rulers may rather spend money on the wall itself.
Answered by Ben | Jul. 21, 2023 08:13

Not great... Some measure of slavery existed, whether held hostage financially, familial hostages, slaves taken from wars, etc., You'd have to research that yourself. What I know is that one of the emperors was adamant at completing either part or all of the wall and many thousands of workers died building it, some say, they are buried right next to or under the wall, or their bodies were even used in the wall, rumours at best, but do your own research. Tldr; it was bad for the labourers involved.
Asked by Ethan from CANADA | Jan. 26, 2017 12:37Reply
Who designed the great wall of china
Answers (1)
Answered by Sheryl from FRANCE | Feb. 02, 2017 19:18

As I know, the construction work lasts for thousands of years. Over 20 dynasties have built the Wall sections, so it might be a little bit hard to name all the designers. According to my research, General Qi Jiguang supervised the construction work during the late Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644).
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