In the 21st century, most people know that the Great Wall of China isn’t a single wall but an extensive series of walls and fortresses. But not so many people know that there are two different Great Walls of China, one was built during the 5th century BC by the first emperor of China, Qinshihuang. The other is from over 2000 years later when a second emperor, this time from the great Han dynasty, started a project to build another wall to protect his nation from northern enemies. The walls are very different in appearance and construction but both were known as ‘the Great Wall’ at the time. So what’s with all these names? Well, it all depends on how you refer to things in Chinese characters.
The Great Wall was built by Emperor Qinshihuang in the 5th Century BC
The first Great Wall was built by Emperor Qinshihuang in the 5th century BC. It’s also known as the ‘First Great Wall’ or ‘the Chinese Wall’. Its purpose was simple: to protect the northern border of China from attacks by nomadic tribes. The Great Wall had a profound impact on Chinese culture and history. The first Great Wall stretched from the modern-day city of Jiayuguan in the west to Lijiacun in the east. It was about 2000 kilometers long (1243 miles) and was made from tamped earth. The wall was wide enough for two people to walk side by side and about 5 meters (16 feet) tall.
The Great Wall of China in the 21st Century
Today’s Great Wall was built primarily in the Ming dynasty, which was in power from 1368 to 1644. This wall is sometimes also known as the ‘Third Great Wall’ or ‘the Chinese Great Wall’. When you visit the Great Wall these days, you’re almost certainly looking at the Ming Wall. The current Great Wall was built as an extended series of fortifications, both ‘new’ and ‘old’. The most famous parts of the Great Wall were built during the Ming dynasty. These include the Badaling, Mutianyu, and Simatai sections, among others.
Where to Go and What to See Along the Great Walls of China
If you want to see the Great Wall in its various guises, you’ll need to make a choice about which part of the wall to visit. That decision depends on where you want to go and what sort of Great Wall you want to see. Here are some of the most important sections of the Great Wall to visit. Remember, though, that many sections are still under repair and some are closed to the public because they’re in such poor condition. And if you want to visit the best sections, you’ll need to plan as they’re very popular with tourists.
- Badaling This is the most famous part of the Great Wall. It’s located 70 kilometers northeast of Beijing and is easily accessible by car, bus, or taxi. This is the part of the wall that was featured in The Wall Street Journal ad.
- Mutianyu This is another popular part of the Great Wall, which is about 90 kilometers northeast of Beijing. It’s a well-preserved section of the wall that was renovated in the 1980s. The wall here is higher and steeper than at Badaling and is thus less crowded.
- Juyong Pass This is a pass that links Beijing with the western part of China and is part of the Great Wall. It’s located just south of the Badaling section of the Great Wall. This is another section of the Great Wall that goes through a lake. It’s about 600 kilometers southwest of Beijing.
- Simatai This is a remote section of the Wall that has become something of a dangerous tourist trap. It’s located about 75 kilometers northeast of Beijing and is not easy to reach.
- Jinshanling This is in the Hebei province, which is about 70 kilometers southwest of Beijing. It’s a less well-known and less-visited section of the Great Wall, so there are fewer tourists here.
- Huanghuacheng This part of the Great Wall is in the Hebei province, just south of Jinshanling. It’s an interesting section of the wall because it’s built on a lake.
So Which Walls Are Which?
Here are some quick facts about the two walls:
- The first Great Wall was built by Emperor Qinshihuang and is also known as the ‘First Great Wall’ or ‘Chinese Wall’.
- The second Great Wall was built by Emperor Qin Shi Huang and is also known as the ‘Second Great Wall’ or ‘Chinese Great Wall’.
- The first Great Wall was built from earth and tamped earth, while the second Great Wall was made of stone, earth, and tamped earth.
- The first Great Wall was about 2000 kilometers long and was wide and tall enough for 2 people to walk side by side and about 5 meters high.
- The second Great Wall was about 6,300 kilometers long and was wide and tall enough for 2 people to walk side by side 6 meters high.
- The first Great Wall was built primarily to protect the northern border of China from attacks by nomadic tribes.
- The second Great Wall was built to extend the first Great Wall and protect the Han dynasty from northern enemies.