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How Long Is the Great Wall of China? 21,196 km or Longer…

The official length of the Great Wall of China is 21,196.18 kilometers (13,170.7 miles), according to the National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA) on June 5th, 2012. This is the first time that China has scientifically and systematically measured the length of all of the Great Wall after a six-year-long archaeological survey.

The Ming Great Wall (constructed 1368–1644), measured 8,851.8 kilometers (5,500 miles) and includes most of the best-preserved sections. Its length is similar to the length of the Great Siberian Railway, but that's only 40% of the whole Great Wall's length.

Continue reading and find out:

How Long is the Great Wall of China Compared to ...

Great Wall of China MapGreat Wall of China Map

So how long are 21,196.18 kilometers (13,170.7 miles)? Maybe the following comparisons would bring you a more vibrant picture.

  • The total Great Wall of China is similar to the perimeter of the USA: all the 48 states as one body plus Alaska's circumference and Hawaii's.
  • We could say instead, that the total Great Wall length for all time would cross the US east to west 4.9 times!
  • The Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty alone would be sufficient to go across the United States - Mexican border (3,000+ km) and the southern Canadian land border (5,000+ km, not counting the Great Lakes and Alaska)!
  • If someone was to build a wall between the South Pole and the North Pole, all the Great Wall sections built in China would be just longer than this wall.
How Long is the Great Wall of China Compared to ...
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Great Wall of China Lengths in Different Dynasties

"Great Walls" were first built by warring states for self-defense, and then 'First Emperor' Qin connected these walls after he unified China and established the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC).

Since then, the walls got the name 'Long Walls' or Wan-Li Changcheng (万里长城/wann-lee-channg-chnng/ '5,000-Km-Long Wall').

Continue reading "Why Chinese Call It the Wan-Li Changcheng (5,000-Km-Long Wall)?".

Lengths of Great Wall of China by Dynasty

The following table gives a fuller picture of what lengths of the Great Wall (approximately) were built in each dynastic era.

Dynastic Era Approx. Length (km) Approx. Length (mi)
Warring States
445–222 BC
3,080.14 1,913.91
Qin & Han Dynasty
221 BC - 220 AD
3,680 km 2,286.64 mi
Jin Dynasty
1115–1234 AD
4,010.28 km 2,491.87 mi
Ming Dynasty
1368–1644 AD
8,851.8 km 5,500.25 mi
Other Dynasties
Mainly Northern and Southern Dynasties (386–589 AD)
1,574 km 978.03 mi
Totals 21,196.18 km 13,170.7 mi
3,476 km (2,160 mi) ≈ the moon's diameter
9,289 km (5,772 mi) ≈ the length of the Siberian Railway
20,000 km (12,430 mi) ≈ the traveling distance between the North Pole and the South Pole

The Great Wall of China's Length Today — Only 9.4% Remains Intact

Great Wall of China By Today

The Great Wall was never a single wall but a huge area with over 43,721 heritage sites in 15 provinces of north China. Unfortunately, only 9.4% of the original wall remains intact. The well-preserved sections like Badaling and Mutianyu only account for a very small part of the whole Great Wall length.

Condition of the Great Wall of China Today

Condition Approx. Length Percentage
Good 2,000 km
(1,243 mi)
Average 4,200 km
(2,610 mi)
Poor 3,400 km
(2,113 mi)
Worse 5,000 km
(3,107 mi)
Disappeared 6,500 km
(4,039 mi)

How Long to Walk the Great Wall of China?

How long to walk the Great Wall

When talking about walking the Great Wall, we normally refer to the Ming Great Wall, which was built about 600 years ago and represents the best-preserved sections.

In 1984, Dong Yaohui (an electrical engineer and later a Great Wall protector), with his two companions spent 508 days (around 17 months) walking and inspecting the entire length of the Ming Great Wall. Despite the tough weather and conditions, they collected first-hand information about the Ming Great Wall during their journey on foot.

It's no longer hard to walk some sections of the Great Wall now. You can spend 2–3 hours for a normal Great Wall sightseeing tour, or 1–2 days of trekking and camping, or even 1–2 months trekking to connect the sections around Beijing for example.

The most popular sections of the Great Wall are located near Beijing, within 1–3 hours' driving.

Section of the Great Wall Approx. Length (km/mi) Walking Time
Badaling 7.6 km
(4.7 mi)
2–3 hours
Mutianyu 5.4 km
(3.4 mi)
2–3 hours
Jinshanling 10.5 km
(6.5 mi)
1–2 days
Simatai 5.4 km
(3.4 mi)
1–2 days
Jiankou 20 km
(12 mi)
1–2 days
Huanghuacheng Lakeside 13 km
(8 mi)
1 day
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How the Total Length of the Great Wall Was Measured

Step 1: Preparation

Who was to measure it: 1,295 people from the State Administration of Cultural Heritage and the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping

Locations: 404 counties in 15 provinces (Liaoning, Hebei, Tianjin, Beijing, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Ningxia Autonomous Region, and Gansu for the northern wall, plus Shandong, Hebei, Hubei, Chongqing, Anhui, and Jiangsu for the Warring States "Great Wall" sections)

What was to be measured: walls, trenches, towers, and walled fortresses

Tools: Compass, tape measure, spirit level, but also electronic distance measurement (EDM), GPS, etc., and lots of mapping software

Step 2: Inspection and Measurement

Time taken: 3½ years

Distance covered: over 100,000 kilometers' (62,137 mi) trekking (roughly equal to trekking every trail in the whole of Switzerland)

Step 3: Data Collation and Analysis

Over 46,111 data forms, 200,000 photos, and 30,000 videos of the Great Wall were collected, collated, and analyzed.

Step 4: Experts Review Findings and Release the Result

Over 43,721 relics were found and measured. As surveys of the Great Wall continue, the total length of the Great Wall may be found to be longer than the 21,196.18 km (13,170.7 mi) they found.

Further Reading

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