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What Was the Great Wall of China Made of?

Written by Kelly PangUpdated Jan. 17, 2024
The Great Wall of BaishikouThe Great Wall of Baishikou

The construction materials of the Great Wall were mainly earth, stone, brick, lime, and wood. The materials used depended on the local resources available.

When building the Great Wall on mountains, stones were used from the mountains; when building it across the plains, the materials used were earth, bricks, and lime.

Even branches of willow trees were used with sand when the Great Wall was built across the deserts.

Earth, Wood, Branches, Sand, and Stone -Before the Sui Dynasty (581–618)

Before the Sui Dynasty(581–618), most sections were built with earth, stone, sand, lime, and wood. Most of the Great Wall sections were built with earth because of the low technology at that time.

The Great Wall section built in the Warring States Period (475–221 BC) in Hebei Province was made from earth, but it has almost disappeared now because the earth was weak in its resistance against rain and wind.

Some of the sections were built with earth, lime, sand, and stone while other sections were built using branches, clay, and lime. The materials used depended on the local conditions.

The Great Wall sections built in the Qin Dynasty(221–206 BC) were made using lime, sand, and stone. The Great Wall starts from Lintao (today's Minxian County in Gansu Province) and extends to the Yalu River in Liaoning Province.

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Earth, Brick, and Stone -During the Tang and Song Dynasties(618–1279)

The Great Wall of MutianyuThe Great Wall of Mutianyu

During the Tang and Song dynasties (618–1279), brick-making technology appeared. Bricks were smaller and lighter to carry than stones and earth, which made them popular.

However, as bricks were expensive and hard to make at that time, most of the Great Wall sections were built with bricks on the exterior with yellow mud filling the body of the Great Wall.

Some places also used stones to build the Great Wall. At that time, these sections were more solid than the sections made with earth.

Brick and Stone - During the Ming Dynasty(1368–1644 AD)

During the Ming Dynasty(1368–1644), as the brick-making technology improved, most of the Great Wall was built using bricks and sticky rice. Sticky rice was used as the binding material.

The small size and lightweight properties of bricks quickened the constructional speed and the use of bricks made the Great Wall's structure more solid.

Some of the Great Wall was built along mountain ranges, so huge stones from the mountains were also used to build it.

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Visiting the Great Wall with China Highlights

Hiking on the Great WallHiking on the Great Wall

If you want to have a look at the constructional materials and varying structures of the Great Wall, you should visit it on a private tour. Please see our popular Great Wall tours below for inspiration:

Not interested in the above tours? See all of our Great Wall tours. Or we can help you to tailor-make your own Great Wall tour.

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