Great Wall History

The history of The Great Wall can be traced back to the Spring and Autumn Periods when seven States appeared at the same time. In order to defend themselves, they all built walls and stationed troops on the borders. At that time, the wall belongs to different State until the Emperor Qin Shihuang unified the other six States. Then the Emperor Qin began to connect the walls as one continious wall and expanded it. It was built on and off for many centuries by the following dynasties until the 1500s. The best-known and best-preserved section of the Great Wall was built in the 14th through 17th centuries A.D., during the Ming dynasty. 

Read More about Great Wall Chronology

Great Wall of Different Dynasties 

Zhou Dynasty Great Wall 

Period: Around 8th century BC (7th century–221 BC)
Length (Mile): Unknown
Description: During the Western Zhou Dynasty, minority groups living in Northwest China frequently invaded the border. The 11th king of Western Zhou Dynasty assigned his subjects to build watch towers and fortresses in northwest Inner Mongolia and to the north of the Yellow River.

Spring and Autumn Period

Period: 770-221 BC
Length(Mile): Qi-385; Chu-155; Wei (the West Line) -Over 62,137; other Sates Unknown
Description: The kingdoms of Qi, Chu, Wei, Yan, Zhao, Zhongshan and Qin, the powers of the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, built walls and extensive fortresses to defend their borders against each other. Most of the walls were built from dykes connecting mountains, which were initially used to prevent floods.

Qin Dynasty Great Wall 

Period: 221–206 BC
Length(Mile): 3,107
Description: The first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, Qin Shi Huang, conquered all opposing kingdoms and unified China. To prevent the resurgence of feudal lords, the emperor had walls between the former states destroyed. A new wall to connect the remaining fortifications along the empire’s new northern frontier was built to defend against intrusions from the north.

Han Dynasty Great Wall

Period: (206 BC–220 AD)
Length(Mile): 6,214
Description: During the Han Dynasty, the Great Wall underwent a large-scale repair and extension to Jiuquan in Gansu province to defend against invaders from the north. The wall was extended east to Korea and west to Xinjiang.

Great Wall of Northern and Southern Dynasties

Period: (420-589)
Length(Mile): Over 2143
Description: The Northern Dynasty and Sui Dynasty witnessed continual repair, rebuilding and expansion of the Great Wall. Great Wall in that period was built manily by the Northern Wei (386-534), Eastern Wei (534-550), Northern Qi (550-577) and Northern Zhou (557-581) in north China. 

Sui Dynasty Great Wall

Period: (581 – 618)
Length(Mile): 932
Description: In order to deal with the southward harassment and plunder Northern Turks, Emperor Wen of the Sui Dynasty regarded the construction of the Great Wall and the consolidation of border defense as important national defense policies since the founding of its dynasty. The Sui Dynasty undertook building the Great Wall seven times during its short reign from 581 to 618.

Tang Dynasty Great Wall

Period: (618-907)
Length(Mile): Unknow
Description: Tang Dynasty built the least of the Great Wall in the history. Claimed as the Golden Age, the Tang Dynasty was proud of its strong national power and military force which ensured that it always had an edge over northern nomads on the battlefield. This would be one of the reason for its least attactment to the building of the Great Wall.

Liao Dynasty Great Wall

Period: (916-1125)
Length(Mile): Unknown
Description: In 907, the Khitan chieftain Abaoji succeeded in getting himself appointed khaghan of all Khitan tribes in the north, laying the foundations to what would officially become the Liao dynasty. Settling in the transitional area between agricultural lands and the steppe, the Khitans became semi-sedentary like their Xianbei predecessors of the Northern Wei, and started to use Chinese methods of defence. In 1026 walls were built through central Manchuria north of Nong’an County to the banks of the Songhua River.

Great Wall of Jin Dynasty 

Period: 1058-1199
Length(Mile): Unknown
Description: During the Jin Dynasty, emperors constructed defensive walls located north of the Great Wall as we know it today, reaching Inner and Outer Mongolia, and even Russia. Most have double walls and trenches.

Ming Dynasty Great Wall

Period: 1368-1568
Length(Mile): 5,500
Description: The Ming Dynasty devoted huge resources to extending, rebuilding and reinforcing the walls, making them more elaborate and stronger. The Great Wall was then extended west to Jiayuguan in Gansu province and east to Hushan in Liaoning province. The wall we see today is primarily the remnants of the Ming constructions.

Qing Dynasty Great Wall

Period: (1644–1911)
Length(Mile): Unknown
Description: After the Qing (Manchu) dynasty (1644–1911/12) replaced the Ming, there was a change in ruling strategy called huairou (“mollification”), wherein the Qing tried to pacify the leaders and peoples of Mongolia, Tibet, and other nationalities by not interfering with local social, cultural, or religious life. Because of the success of that strategy, the Great Wall was repaired less frequently, and it gradually fell into ruin.

Modern China (1911–present)

1. Considered as a National Symbol after 1911;

2. The Sino-Japanese conflict (1931–45) gave the Great Wall a new lease of life in the eyes of the Chinese. It served as military defense facility during the Sino-Japanese War;

3. In 1952, the scholar-turned-bureaucrat Guo Moruo laid out the first modern proposal to repair the Great Wall. Five years later (1958), the renovated Badaling became the first section to be opened to the public since the establishment of the PRC.

4. During the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), hundreds of kilometres of the Great Wall—already damaged in the wars of the last century and eroded by wind and rain—were deliberately destroyed by fervent Red Guards who regarded it as part of the “Four Olds” to be eradicated in the new China.

5. As China opened up in the 1980s, reformist leader Deng Xiaoping initiated the “Love our China and restore our Great Wall” campaign to repair and preserve the Great Wall.[182] The Great Wall was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. 

Read More about China Great Wall Events After 1911

Which Dynasties Didn’t Build the Great Wall?

Thoughout the history of Great Wall, Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) established by Kublai Khan, was the only dynasty didn’t built the Great Wall, as its territory reached far beyond the Wall to the continent of Europe. In addition, Tang, Song and Qing dynasties didn’t attach too much importatnce to the construction of the Great Wall.

Read More about Which Dynasties Didn’t Build the Great Wall?

Which Dynasties Built Most of the Great Wall?

According to historical documents, more than 20 vassal countries and feudal dynasties have involved in the building of the Great Wall. Totalling the Great Wall built in each era, there are more than 100,000 miles. The length of the Great Wall built in Qin, Han and Ming dynasties is more than 10,000 miles.

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