Who built the Great Wall of China?

The Great Wall was built by the labor force including soldiers, common people and criminals. A duke of Chu State in Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-276BC) was the first one commanding to build the wall to prevent the invasions from other states. After the unification of China, Emperor Qin Shihuang ordered to connect and extend the separate walls of previous states to form the complete military defensive line, the Great Wall of China. Many emperors of following dynasties also ordered to construct the wall, including Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD) and Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD).

Who Built the Great Wall of China
Who built the Great Wall of ChinaWho built the Great Wall of China?

Labor Force of Great Wall Construction

The soldiers were the main power to build the Great Wall at that time. For example, Emperor Qin Shihuang ordered the General Mengtian to lead around 300,000 soldiers to protect the defensive line and build the wall after defeating the Huns. This project took more than 9 years. In order to take care of the soldiers and make them feel settled, the court even arranged for widows to marry them.

Besides those soldiers, the Emperor Qin Shihuang also forced nearly one million people to join the construction of this project. There were also many other dynasties taking the same actions. About 100,000 people were taken to build the wall in 446, during Northern Wei Dynasty (386 – 534). In 555, Northern Qi Dynasty (550 – 577), the emperor used 1,800,000 laborers to build the wall from Xiakou to Hengzhou, which is more than 450 kilometers (280 miles). In the Sui Dynasty (581 - 618 AD), the widows were also force to work because all the male laborers had been used already.

The criminals were forced into labor as punishment. They would be shaved off the hair and wore the iron rings. During the day, they were ordered to take turns patrolling the wall, while at night, building and extending the wall. They were required to work for 4 years according to laws of Qin Dynasty.
 

Labor Force of Great Wall Construction
 

The Legendary Origin of the Great Wall Construction

Once upon a time, Emperor Qin Shihuang was attracted by a kind of necromancy, which made him generate a strong desire of immortality because he thought his empire could be safe and strong as long as he was immortal. At the same time, a necromancer called Lusheng gradually gained the trust of Qin Shihuang. Qin Shihuang spent a great deal of efforts to seek the elixir, but all of these actions ruined. He asked Lusheng to find the god for guidance. When Lusheng came back, he brought a book which recorded that the Huns would end the Qin Empire. Qin Shihuang finally found an aim to abreact his upset and he ordered the general Mengtian to conquer the Huns. When the soldiers defeated the Huns, Qin Shihuang still worried so much because the Huns had no fixed camps and the safety of the empire could not be guaranteed forever. As a result, Qin Shihuang decided to ask the soldiers, common people and criminals to connect and extend the walls of previous states to defend and attack the Huns more easily.
 

How many people died building the Great Wall of China?

Great Wall at BadalingFor the not well-developed productivity in ancient times, there was no doubt that the construction of the Great Wall could be a disaster for common people, and so many people lost their lives during the project. During the Qin Dynasty (221 - 207 BC) only, 20% of the country’s population, nearly one million people was forced to build it. But only tens of thousands of them survived from the heavy work and difficult conditions. That is to say, those died from the building of the Great Wall reach almost one million. Some of them may starve to death, some may die for excessive fatigue and some may even be flogged to death.
 

Are there dead bodies in the Great Wall of China?

According to the situation at that time, it was very likely to bury the dead bodies under or near the Great Wall. Due to the heavy construction work, the controllers would not like to waste time to send the dead bodies away and buried them. The legend Meng Jiangnu's Bitter Weeping is also a proof of this. It was about a wife who cried on the Great Wall and wept the section into collapse where her husband was buried. However, this guess has not been proved true since none of the dead bodies have been found under or near the wall yet.
 

 How long is the Great Wall of China?
 How tall is the Great Wall?
 Who built the Great Wall of China?
 When was the Great Wall of China built?
 Why was the Great Wall of China built?
 Can the Great Wall Be Seen from the Space?
 Who of the World Leaders Have Visited the Great Wall of China?
 Which section to visit?
 Which one is better, Badaling or Mutianyu?
 How to Get to Great Wall from Shanghai?
 How to Get there from Hong Kong?


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