Labor Force of Great Wall

Great Wall Laborer Statue
Great Wall Laborer Statue

The Great Wall is a wonder that the ancient Chinese laboring people created. At that time, there were no machines. All the work depended on manpower. Those millions of people worked among the continuous mountains and steep cliffs. They worked facing dangers and many of them lost their lives.

According to historical data, the labor force was made up of three groups: soldiers, common people and criminals. Since the Qin Dynasty (221BC - 206BC), the construction of the Great Wall had been a very large project. The Emperor Qin Shihuang ordered millions of people to finish this project.

Soldiers made up the main construction group. This was the case with the building of  the wall of Northern Qi (550-557). Also, during the Qin Dynasty, 300,000 soldiers were redirected to build the wall after General Meng Tian conquered the Huns. Still, it took nine years to finish the work. In order to take care of the soldiers and make them feel settled, the court even arranged for widows to marry them. 

Millions of common people were called up to build the wall. Northern Qi's wall, starting from Xiakou to Hengzhou, used 1,800,000 laborers. A section of Sui's (581 - 618) wall in Inner Mongolia  required more than 1,000,000 men to build. Besides the first 300,000 soldiers, Qin's wall required another 500,000 common people to complete the work.

Great Wall Laborer Statue
Statue of Soldier on the Wall

Criminals were forced into labor as punishment. During the day, they were ordered to take turns patrolling the wall, while at night, building and extending the wall. They were required to serve four years of hard labor according to laws at that time.

It's a big burden for ordinary people to build the Great Wall. Sometimes, all the men in the nation were forced to construct. For instance, during the Wei-Jin and Southern-Northern dynasties (around 265-589), even children had to join this project. As a result, no men were engaged in farming, women were frightened to have a boy, and widowers dared not to marry a woman. Also the Great Wall construction led to a large number of deaths and injuries. For those who lost sons or husbands, life would become much harder.

- Last updated on Feb. 23, 2022 -
Questions & Answers on Labor Force of Great Wall
Asked by Elin from USA | Dec. 12, 2023 16:50Reply
How did Qin force workers to work on the great wall?
Answers (2)
Answered by Harry | Dec. 12, 2023 17:07

He used strong power to control army to enslave the workers.
Answered by jimmy jam ham sam bam | Dec. 12, 2023 18:24

they will kill you if u dont work
Asked by Naomi from AMERICA | Nov. 10, 2023 13:29Reply
What were the challenges and restraints on the building of the Great Wall of China?
Answers (1)
Answered by Helen | Nov. 12, 2023 22:56

1. Backward productivity, resulting in slow construction, starvation and countless deaths.

2. Heavy corvee, long construction period, poor natural conditions.

3. The construction of the Great Wall used one tenth of the country's strong labor force, resulting in a decrease in grain production.

4. Located in the north, the winter is cold and long, and countless builders freeze to death.
Asked by Jacob from AUSTRALIA | Aug. 21, 2023 02:48Reply
What was the daily life of the workers like?
Answers (1)
Answered by Cindy | Aug. 21, 2023 19:35

Their life is quite harsh and many had died. They ate bad and lived in the wild. Also, they need to work hard and overtime.
Asked by hgeiu | May. 07, 2023 21:53Reply
How was life affected after the great wall was built?
Answers (1)
Answered by Leo | May. 08, 2023 18:49

The Great Wall prevents invasion of nomads in the north and created a relatively peaceful production environment for the development of agricultural economy in feudal society, and also made people's life more stable.
Asked by mia from MALDIVES | Apr. 17, 2023 17:47Reply
How could the Chinese measure the success of the Great Wall after its completion?
Answers (1)
Answered by Trace | Apr. 17, 2023 20:38

It blocked the invaders from the north successfully most of the time.
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