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The Great Wall Just Got A Lot Greater

By April 21, 2009

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Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China gets supersized. (Digital Vision/Getty Images)

There are nearly 1,600 more miles to the Great Wall of China than previously thought, according to new findings by China's Administration of Cultural Heritage and the Bureau of Surveying and Mapping. In case anyone's curious, that's about the distance from Boston to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

As part of a two-year study of the wall, researchers using infra-red cameras and GPS technology found that it now spans a total of 5,500 miles (8,850 km). The old estimate had been based primarily on historical records.

Sandstorms and other natural occurrences have covered up much of the wall over time. Most of the newly-discovered portions were built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and stretch from northeast China into the western desert, passing through 10 provinces and autonomous regions.

Contrary to popular belief, the Great Wall isn't actually one wall, but a series of defensive walls that were first constructed 2,500 years ago. They were first unified under the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huan in 220 BC.

Researchers will continue to survey other older part of the way from the Qin and Han Dynasties (206 BC - 9 AD) as part of a 10-year protection plan of the Wall.

Unlike typical tourist pictures of the wall, many of the new sections take the form of trenches or us natural barries like rivers to serve as part of its defense, according to Chinese historian Zhu Zhewen.

Some of the best trips I have taken in China were at the Great Wall. There are heavily rebuilt portions which are great to see what it would have looked like in its heyday, and then there are the off-the-beaten path portions that are wild and crumbling.

Though it's not permitted, many travelers sneak in to sections of the "wild wall" and even camp out. The new discovery may mean even more adventure seekers will visit.

How ironic that a wall built to keep people out is now bringing them in.

Great Wall of China map
Map of the sections of the Great Wall of China by era built. This does not include the newly-discovered portions. (Maximilian Dörrbecker/Creative Commons Image)

Yellow: Warring States Perios (5th Century BC to 3rd Century BC); Orange: Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC); Red: Han Dynasty (2nd Century BC to 3rd Century AD); Light Pink: Northern Wei Dynasty (386-584 AD); Dark Pink: Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD); Light Purple: Liao and Jin Dynasties (1066-1234 AD); Dark Purple: Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD).


May 1, 2009 at 7:59 am
(1) Tony says:

Thank you for the information! It is very useful to me! I am always looking for new, and interesting information.

May 10, 2009 at 11:16 pm
(2) Cali says:

I was doing a report on the great wall of China and this information just really helped. I got most of my great facts from hear. Thank you so much. I appreciate the work you did on this artical. By the way I got an A on my report. That how wonderful you helped me!!!

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