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How Long It Took to Build the Great Wall of China — 2,000+ Years

the great wall at MutianyuThe Great Wall at Mutianyu

There are several Great Walls that were built by different dynasties such as the Qin Great Wall and the better known Ming Great Wall. But there are estimates about the number of laborers and records for how many years it took to complete the work...

Construction Time For All of the Walls

If all the fortified walls that were built by the different dynasties and kingdoms around northern China are included, the total length would exceed 20,000 kilometers (12,000 miles). All these walls together were completed over a period of 22 centuries. It is probably impossible to calculate how many millions of people built the Great Wall or the man hours expended.

The First Complete Qin Great Wall — 20 Years

The first complete Great Wall was linked together around 221 BC, and it is believed to have been built over a period of about 20 years. The Qin connected together and expanded walls already in place that were built by prior kingdoms.

There are historical records that suggested 300,000–500,000 soldiers were assigned to both build and guard the Qin Great Wall with the help of 400,000–500,000 conscripted laborers. Other records suggest that up to 1.5 million men were used during the peak of Qin construction.

The Last Complete Ming Great Wall — 200 Years

the Badaling Great WallThe Great Wall at Badaling

Over 2,000 years, many imperial dynasties and kingdoms built, rebuilt, and extended walls many times that subsequently eroded. 

The latest imperial construction was performed by the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), and the length was then over 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles). This is the wall often referred to when we talk about the Great Wall.

The Ming dynasty spent 200 years to build their wall. Decades of work that went into constructing wide and paved turreted walls with towers. These walls served as troop highways in the rough terrain. The Badaling Section of the Great Wall shows the Ming laborers' rigorous craftsmanship.

Explore the Great Wall with Us

great wall hiking

The Great Wall of China is a must-see attraction to all travelers to China. If you are planning a trip to the Great Wall, just tell us your interests and requirements, we will help you create your Great Wall tour.

Or you can see our most popular Great Wall tours below for inspirations:

Other Great Wall FAQs:

How long is the Great Wall? The Ming Dynasty Great Wall stretches about 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles), which most tourists see.

Who built the Great Wall, when, and why? The first parts of the Great Wall were built in the 7th Century BC when the region was still divided into many small states.

How to visit the Great Wall of China — Insider Guide: See China Highlights' suggestions to explore the Great Wall.

When is the best time to visit the Great Wall: The best time to visit is September–November, with less rain and more clear days for you to enjoy hiking and photography.

Can the Great Wall really be seen from space? Because it is thin and a lot of it is crumbling and its color matches the land, maybe no astronaut has ever really seen it.

What protection is there for the Great Wall? Many wise men suggest we should make the Great Wall better understood by the world and make laws to protect it.