Length of the Great Wall? No Easy Answer
This question seems easy, but it is actually a very complicated question.
Over the dynasties the Great Wall was eroded, built, rebuilt and extended many times. The latest construction took place in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the length was then over 6,000 kilometers. This is the wall often referred to when we talk about the Great Wall.
If all the fortified walls built in the different dynasties around northern China are included, the total length would exceed 50,000 kilometers (31,000 miles). See "Great Wall History".
If your goal is to reach the Great Wall, we at China Highlights are here to help you get over all the difficulties. See our Great Wall tours
The Great Wall has been called "the Ten-Thousand-Li-Long Wall" (万里长城: Wan Li Changcheng) for centuries. One li is half a kilometer, so 10,000 li is the equivalent of 5,000 km (3,100 miles).
It seems quite a low estimate of its length, compared to modern estimates of 8,850 km (5500 miles). These estimates include trenches and natural barriers like mountains rivers and lakes. Estimates of the length of actual wall come to over 6,200 km (3,900 miles). However, this includes many side branches that don't contribute to the west-to-east 'length'.
The wall was so seemingly conservatively named because of the Chinese love of using the word wan [pronounced: wann] meaning 10,000 for describing things. Wan also means 'a great number'.
Estimates of the Great Wall's length are never going to be exact with so much lost to the ages. Also, it is doubtful that the Chinese actually knew how long the wall was or would turn out to be when it was built. So, a better translation of Wan Li Changcheng would probably be "the Great-Number-of-Li-Long Wall", or "the Great Wall" for short.
China Highlights offers tours to all the famous sections of the Great Wall from Shanhai Pass in Qinhuangdao on China's east coast to Jiayu Pass in the west. Our Beijing Tours usually include one of the more popular lengths of the Great Wall near Beijing.
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