The Great Wall of China, how much do you know about it? Why was it built, are there bodies buried in it, and can you really see the Wall from outer space? John Man, the author of The Great Wall of China, separates facts from fiction.

great wall of china

Having going through his work, we have come up with some of the outstanding fact of this great wall. For your delight and enlightenment, go through it slowly. At the end of this article, you’ll be surprised how much you never knew about this great wall of china.

It cannot be seen from the Moon

It was Robert Ripley, the American illustrator who made a fortune with his cartoon feature Believe It Or Not!, who called the Great Wall “The mightiest work of man – the only one that would be visible to the human eye from the Moon”. This statement was, of course, founded on no evidence at all, since it was made 30 years before anyone had been in space. Yet it became sanctioned by use. Even the eminent Sinologist Joseph Needham, the author of Science and Civilisation in China, stated that “the Wall has been considered the only work of man which could be picked out by Martian astronomers”.

SEE ALSO: The Mystery of Moon Water.

Though discredited by astronauts, the Moon version is still widely quoted as a “fact”. The truth was established once and for all during the first Chinese space flight in 2003 when astronaut Yang Liwei said he couldn’t see anything of it from orbit.

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The Wall is not as old as you think

The Wall is widely thought to date back 2,000 years to just after 221 BC when China was first unified. In fact, almost everything which is that old is no more than a mound of earth. The popular idea of the Wall derives from the stone, battlemented structure built by the Ming (1358–1644). Its maximum age is about 500 years.

It is not a wall

Well, the Ming bits around Beijing are, but out west, brick and stone give way to earth: sometimes moulded by the elements into camel’s humps; sometimes no more than a gentle bank; sometimes nothing at all. And there is much more to the Wall than walls or banks: fortresses, barracks, guard-towers and beacon-towers stalk the main lines of the Wall in a sort of stretched-out halo.

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The Wall does not contain corpses

great wall of china

Ancient rumours speak of labourers being buried in the Wall. These probably emanated from a chief historian of the Han dynasty, Sima Qian, who criticised his own emperor by slighting his Qin predecessor. However, no bones have ever been found in the Wall and there is no evidence, written or archaeological, for the slander.

It is not wide enough for five horses abreast

Well, it is, but only on some sections around Beijing which were built as both wall and road. Other parts of the Ming wall, are only wide enough for a single person. Westwards there is often no walkway. Horses and soldiers had to march along the Wall’s base.