How much did the construction of the Great Wall of China cost?

Great Wall of China Cost: CNY 635 billion (approximately USD 95 billion)

How much did Great Wall of China cost? Actually, it is not easy to calculate the Great Wall of China costs. Its construction spanned 2,500 years and the costs of different time periods were different; moreover, many sections were built separately by various states or countries; also, many sites had been destroyed and repaired several times. Therefore, no matter how proficient engineers are, the total Great Wall of China price can’t be accurately calculated. The above figures are only rough calculations based on the Ming Great Wall. If you are interested, keep reading to know the methods and basis of the calculation.

Great Wall of China Cost

How to calculate the Great Wall of China price?

According to the ways of present cost engineers, we should count in these items to make a rough calculation of Great Wall cost:
Labor fee + Materials cost + Living Expense + Freight fee + Management fee + Design fee = Total Cost

Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) is the last period in history extensively engaged in the construction. The well-known sections in Beijing including Badaling and Mutianyu were all built then. The Ming Great Wall is 8,851.8 km (5,500 miles).

Depending on the cost of modern projects, the engineers calculated Great Wall cost for each meter, based on the fact that the average height of Great Wall is 7.8 meters, the base is averagely 6.5 meters wide at the bottom and 5.8 meters on the top.

Construction Materials of One-meter Great Wall  Unit Price (CNY)  Total Cost (CNY)
6,000 bricks  CNY 24,000
7 cubic meters lime mortar   400  CNY 2,800
Foundation + earth inside foundation + other materials (water + machinery + management)  / CNY 2,000
Labor: 30 people, 5 days 200  30 people ×CNY200 × 5 days = CNY 30,000
Total  /   CNY 58,800 ≈ CNY 60,000 (USD 9,000 )

The total length of Ming Great Wall is 8,851.8km, or 8,851,800 meters.
The wall cost: CNY 60,000 X 8,851,800 Meters ≈ CNY 531.1 billion

There is a watch tower or beacon tower every 300 - 500 meters. Assuming there are two towers per 1,000 meters, there are as many as 17,704 towers along the Wall. We assume that each tower costs CNY20,000
 The tower cost: CNY200,000 × 17,704 towers ≈ CNY 3.5 billion

Another large expense is the passes. There are nearly 1,000 passes along the Wall, like the famous Shanhaiguan Pass, Juyongguan Pass, and Yumenguan Pass.
 The Pass Cost: CNY100 billion

Based on the above three costs, the total cost of the Great Wall is 531.1 billion + 3.5 billion + 100 billion ≈ CNY 635 billion (approximately USD 95 billion).


The actual Great Wall of China costs might be higher.

Reason 1: Why was the Great Wall of China expensive to build? The main reason is that it’s really long. The above is only an example of Ming Great Wall. Many dynasties in history have built the Great Wall. The Qin Great Wall built by Empror Qin Shihuang was the earliest connected Wall. The Han Great Wall is also extremely long. In 2012, China National Cultural Heritage Administration announced that the total length of the Great Wall of China was 21,196.18 kilometers. If calculating by this length, the total cost may be three times of the above.

Reason 2: The construction was organized by ancient governments, involving no land acquisition fees. Based on the current land acquisition cost of CNY 20,000 per mu, at least CNY 30 billion would be added.

Reason 3: Cost of lives. Only materials and financial resources are refered above. As a matter of fact, the construction relied mainly on manpower in the ancient time. A large amount of manpower were used in the construction. It took five years to build the Qin Great Wall, and millons of strong men, accounting for one-fifth of the country’s population at that time were forced to join the construction. Besides, many people died in the process of building the Great Wall of China.

The cost of world’s supe-large projects

The Great Wall of China costs USD 950 billion. Even today, it is indeed a super project. Let’s see by comparing the cost with world’s famous large-scale projects:

Great Wall price approximately equals to Cost
6.3 Selafield Nuclear Power Plant, UK USD15 billion
3 Dubai Al Maktoum Airport, UAE  USD32 billion
1.5 Dubai Paradise, United Arab Emirates  Estimated cost USD64 billion
2.8 Three Gorges Dam, China  CNY207.773 billion, about USD34 billion
5.3 Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, China CNY120 billion, about USD18 billion

FYI: China’s world-famous super project, the high speed railway network planned to be 100,000 kilometers(62,135 miles), has a total investment of CNY100 trillion, equally to the cost of 160 Great Walls. If the coffin of Emperor Qin Shihuang was not firmly nailed, even he would be shocked out.
- Last updated on Jul. 30, 2020 -
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