Mysteries revealed: The Great Wall of China

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By John Davisteacher and freelance writer

Discover the longest, and largest, manmade structure in the world

The Great Wall of China

Download a stunning A4 Poster, to display in your classroom.

Plus, read our FREE Activity sheet, ‘Mysteries revealed: The Great Great Wall of China’ for more facts about the site.

Taking inspiration from the Latin word for ‘a reminder’ (monumentum), this history series focuses on some of the world’s greatest – and most mysterious – historical monuments. The monuments featured have linked activities designed to encourage children to reveal the mystery (or not!) behind these landmarks. A snap shot of relevant background information (for teacher reference or to extract and share with your class) and a stunning A4 poster will be provided each month for the monument in focus. This month, we focus on the Great Wall of China.

Background information

  • The Great Wall of China is a series of stone and earthen fortifications built, rebuilt and maintained between the 3rd century BC and the 16th century to guard the northern borders of the Chinese Empire. It is constructed out of a number of smaller defensive walls that were built separately.
  • The Great Wall is the longest and largest manmade structure in the world in terms of surface area and mass. Precise measurements of its total length are difficult to establish. Its current length is estimated to be 2400km (1500 miles) and its original length to have been 6400km (4000 miles).
  • UNESCO made the Great Wall a World Heritage Site in 1987.
  • The main purpose of the wall was to stop nomadic groups crossing into China and then leaving with large supplies of stolen property.
  • At its peak during the Ming Dynasty (AD1368-1644) more than one million men guarded the wall.
  • The Great Wall is seen as an icon for China and is often referred to as China’s Stone Dragon. It is a popular tourist attraction. The three most popular sections visited by tourists are Badaling, Mutianyu and Simatai – all easily reached from the Chinese capital of Beijing.
  • As using transport in many terrains would have been difficult, local building materials were used wherever possible. The wall can be up to 8m high and anything from 4.5 to 9m thick.
  • Watchtowers were placed along the walls at intervals to house soldiers and store weapons. Fire beacons or smoke signals were used to send warning of attack. The towers have steep steps and restricted access to confuse attackers. Larger buildings, which acted as barracks and administrative centres, were set out at longer intervals.
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