The entire wall was built over 2,000 years. It is hard to think about that length of time and the continuing effort that resulted in something as complex as the Great Wall. In 656 B.C., the Chu State wall, called “The Rectangle Wall”, was built to protect the Chus from enemy neighbors that meant them harm. Tourists still visit this portion of the wall in the Henan province.
When China was separated into states, each state built parts of the wall to protect their borders from enemy forces until 221 B.C. During the Qin Dynasty, the wall started taking shape as the Great Wall of today.
Qin Shi Huang was the first to unify China as one state. He too built a wall to defend against his enemies. He built a large defense barricade. One million soldiers and laborers worked on the project that took nine years. Some of the old walls were incorporated into Chu’s wall. The Great Wall went from northern China from Mongolia. Much of this wall has fallen and disappeared. It was further north than the wall we see today.
The Han Dynasty in 206 B.C. to A.D. 24 was at war with the Huns and extended the wall using part of the old walls and extending it 10,000 kilometers into western China, the modern Gansu province. It was during these years that they saw the wall grow the longest. It was up to 6,213 miles into western China, modern Gansu province.
In A.D. 386-581, during four dynasties, 621 miles were added to the wall. This was the Northern Wei part of the wall in the Shanxi province. The Eastern Wei added 47 additional miles. The Northern Qi saw the longest extension of the wall since Qin and Han, 932 miles. Northern Zhou dynasty ruler Emperor Jingdi refurbished the wall in 579.
During the Ming Dynasty, the Great Wall was very important for defense. Emperor Yanzhang refurbished the wall during his reign. His son Zhu Di was one of his generals to repair the existing wall and build forts and watchtowers. The wall was used to keep Mongols from the north from invading Beijing. The wall was fortified for the next 200 years and covered 4,536 miles.
Today, the Ming portion is what remains. It is from Shanhai Pass in Hebei province and ends in the west at Jiayuguan Pass in Gansu province at the edge of the Gobi Desert. There is little to see in the last 310 miles. The wall has broken down.
The wall has gaps as wide as 50 miles from determination. These sections are mostly in the mountains.
Even though much of the wall has crumbled, it is still one of the world’s greatest attractions. Not all the recorded history is known to be the truth. Some points like the miles built in which year is up for debate. Some dispute the total number of miles the wall covers. Still, there is no argument when someone says it is the greatest attraction in the world and will likely remain that way. It is a marvelous engineering accomplishment.