When was the Great Wall of China built?

How long did it take to build the Great Wall of China? – Over 2,000 years

Ming Great Wall
Badaling Great Wall
The Great Wall of China was a combined effort of many states and dynasties in history. Its construction was started in the 7th Century BC by the Chu State and lasted until 1878 in the late Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD), taking more than 2,000 years.

Some people may have a doubt that how long ago was the Great Wall of China made? It was built about 2,700 years ago. As early as the Spring and Autumn Period (770 – 476 BC), the state of Chu (1115 – 223 BC) started to build the first wall to protect itself from invaders from other states. The Qi, Yan, Wei, Zhao and Qin states later joined the effort.

During subsequent dynasties, the wall was extended, repaired or modified. The Qin Dynasty (221 - 207 BC), Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) and Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 AD) are three time periods when the Great Wall was massively built or restored.  The best-known and most visited sections including Badaling, Mutianyu, Simatai and Jinshanling were built during the Ming Dynasty.

With the end of the cold weapon (no fire or explosives) era, the Great Wall gradually became less important as a military defense system. As a result, the construction also stopped. The final construction was in 1878 during the late Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD).
 

Construction Time of Great Wall of China

7 Cen. BC – 3 Cen. BC in Zhou Dynasty
The dukes of Chu, Qi, Wei, Zhao, and Yan States built separate walls to protect their own states.
214 BC – 204BC in Qin Dynasty
Emperor Qin Shihuang ordered Mengtian to connect and extend the walls of formers states to defend the northern border.
201BC – 101 BC in Han Dynasty
Emperor Wu commanded improvements to the wall 4 times to block the northern Huns and protect the safety of Silk Road.
423 – 543 in Northern Wei Dynasty
The Great Wall of the Northern Wei Dynasty protected their territory from Rouran, a minority nation.
550 – 565 in Northern Qi Dynasty
Emperors of Northern Qi valued the Great Wall very much, and there were 5 large-scale renovations.
581 – 608 in Sui Dynasty
It was a peaceful period and Emperor Wen of Sui mainly repaired sections built by previous dynasties.
1194 – 1211 in Jin Dynasty
The Wall of the Jin, known as Jin Jiehao, was erected to defend against the northern nomadic tribes.
1368 – 1620 in Ming Dynasty
The construction never stopped in the Ming Dynasty and most sections we see today were built in this period.
1638 – 1878 in Qing Dynasty
The emperors in Qing Dynasty repaired sections built by previous dynasties and built seven new defensive sections.

When was the Qin Great Wall built? – 214 BC to 204BC

In 214 BC, after defeating other states and unifying the Central Plain, Emperor Qin Shihuang  ordered General Mengtian to connect the existing walls and extend them further as a front line to defend against possible invasion from northern nomadic tribes. This took more than 10 years. Therefore, a continuous Great Wall was made for the first time about 2,200 years ago.
 

When was the Han Great Wall built? – 201 BC to 101 BC

The section built in the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) is the longest. In 201 BC, the second year of Han's establishment, Liubang, the emperor at that time, ordered the Great Wall that King Zhao of the Qin State had previously built to be repaired. In addition, there were also four periods of repair and construction during the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty. The first time and second times were both in 121 BC to prepare for war with the northern Huns and to guarantee the safety of the Silk Road. The third time was during 111 – 110 BC, and the last time was 104 – 101 BC.
 

When was the Ming Great Wall built? – 1368 to 1620

The Ming Dynasty spent over 200 years repairing and building the walls, which could be primarily divided into 3 stages. In the 1368 – 1447, during the early Ming Dynasty, the emperors mainly repaired and connected the walls of former dynasties including the Northern Wei (386 – 534), Northern Qi (550 – 577) and Sui (581 – 618). From 1448 to 1566, during the middle Ming Dynasty, the construction of the Great Wall in the north became quite urgent, since the Tartar, a northern nomadic nation, invaded the border constantly. The last stage was during 1567 to 1620, in the late Ming Dynasty. It focused on rebuilding and re-routing the wall to defend against the Jurchen, a minority nation in northeast area at that time.

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Further Reading:
Fun Facts about Great Wall: 25 Things You didn't Know