New survey's big surprise: China’s Great Wall much longer than previously estimated
The Great Wall of China, as seen near Beijing in March of this year.
June 6th, 2012
10:59 PM ET

New survey's big surprise: China’s Great Wall much longer than previously estimated

China’s first comprehensive measurement of its Great Wall shows it to be 13,170 miles long - thousands of miles longer than previous estimates - state news outlet Xinhua reported this week.

The length of the Great Wall of China - actually a non-contiguous series of defensive systems involving walls, natural barriers and trenches, built from 475 B.C. to 1644 in various areas to fend off invaders - was determined through surveys that began in 2007 at the direction of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

Partial results of the survey, announced in 2009, showed that the wall systems built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) were 5,499 miles (8,851 kilometers) long, Xinhua reported.

Teams then were instructed to identify and measure pre-Ming Dynasty wall systems throughout China. They found them to be 7,671 miles (12,345 kilometers) in length, said British researcher and author William Lindesay, who studies the Great Wall.

“The figure just announced (13,170 miles, or 21,196 kilometers) is a combination of the length of the Ming plus (the) length of pre-Ming Great Walls,” Lindesay wrote to CNN in an e-mail Wednesday.

The British Broadcasting Corp. reported in 2009 that before the initial survey results were announced, the wall’s length was commonly estimated at about 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers).

The new survey report shows that many of the walls are in bad shape. In some sections, only the foundation remains; and only 8.2% of the walls from the Ming Dynasty are whole, according to Xinhua.

Activities such as mining and infrastructure development have damaged the walls, as have people who have taken soil or bricks from the structures, Xinhua reported, citing the report.

The report said that “the saving and preserving of the Great Wall’s relics should not be delayed,” according to Xinhua.

“These surveys are important groundwork in the protection of the walls, as first they need to be identified, location-recorded and measured,” Lindesay wrote in his e-mail to CNN.

Not all of the 13,170 miles represent actual walls. Among the 5,499 miles reported in the Ming Dynasty section in 2009, 223 miles were trenches and 1,387 miles were natural defensive barriers such as rivers or steep hills that were incorporated into the wall system, according to National Geographic.

The Great Wall of China was put on the UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1987.

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Filed under: Architecture • China
soundoff (144 Responses)
  1. Karaya

    It is not the length that matter but thickness.

    June 7, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Silver Back

      So thick is better. 🙂

      June 7, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Aeromechanic

      It isn't very big around but it sure is short.

      June 7, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Twist of real history

    Again, China's effort to twist ancient history by saying ... yeah, that was our territory from long long time ago.
    They don't care about the fact, they are so busy making twisted version of their history.

    June 7, 2012 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • kman821

      Kinda like the USA claiming North America, huh?

      June 7, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bob

    I've been saying the same about my schlong, year after year.

    June 7, 2012 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  4. will

    ok then....mexicans with spray cans...

    June 7, 2012 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  5. TPN51

    It took them 2400 years to find this out? I thought the Chinese were great mathematicians?

    June 7, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  6. Ronald Raygun

    Mr. Jintao, tear down this wall!

    June 7, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • CelestialOne

      Hu to Ron,
      No problemo. How much do you want to pay... very cheap... buy one piece get another free and we provide credit too...and free shipping ...

      June 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • fred RAY-GUN-ZAP

      Jintao, TEAR DOWN THAT WALL! or not ...is that okay?

      June 7, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. TheGoob

    Yes Zach we could, but our government would have to appoint a committee that would appoint a committee that would appoint another committee to research whether or not it would be cost affective. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars doing the research each committee would report back to a special committee that was appointed to take this information and see whether or not it would be cost effective. After passing through the special committee we would have already spent millions of dollars on just the research. Then we would have to consult with lawyers to make sure that the wall wouldn't offend the Mexicans, because the ACLU would be all over the U.S. and ready to sue. After many years tied up in the court system and millions and millions of dollars already spent our government would realize that we just don't have the funds to take on such a project.

    June 7, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Sunshine100

      Your summarization of the political and bureacratic process in the United States government is dead on and made me laugh. Your brief comment should be the Preface topic line in all high school and college U.S. history textbooks. Thanks.

      June 8, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Wurx

      You my friend are right on the money.

      June 8, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pepinium

      You make some good points, however, don't believe for a minute that you are going to solve this country's problems by just building a wall. You still gotta figure out a way to get rid of the 100 million ignorant natives that are already here. Best hope is a virus that attacks under-developed brains. I hope they are working on it !!!

      June 10, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy R

      Be careful what you wish for. Given your comment, you surely wouldn't survive.

      June 10, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      But what would we do without all those Conservatives?

      June 11, 2012 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      Thats true

      June 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sinfully Yours

    That wall was used to defend them chinks from the invading hordes of Mongilans. Now-a-days its used to keep the stray cats and dogs in so they are easier to catch for foor. Mr. Jintao, TEAR DOWN THAT WALL!

    June 7, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Yes they have to eat them, you would too if you didn't have such a nice wellfare system to live off of here in the US.

      June 7, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "The Lunatic Fringe"

    Is that what it takes to get rid of Homeland Security overhead? Maybe thier on to something here. Build a 50 foot high wall, along the southern borders of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. If China's Great Wall can protect Walmart, then this would protect you too.

    June 7, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Sinfully Yours

      Why waste the resources in building a wall there? All we need to do is stop trying for Yucca Mountain and just dump the waste right along the southern border. It'll deter them from crossing illegally , and if they do cross? They'll be dead within a week!

      June 7, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  10. Sinfully Yours

    Each year my ladies continually say the same thing: "It's much larger than previously estimated." Ah, such a good problem to have.

    June 7, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • jlv

      You know when their over a hundred the vision and the memory tend to go.

      June 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DIng Dong

    As Karl Pilkington said "It's the alright wall of China" there is nothing great about it. Ha ha

    June 7, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. cat12

    have not being to the great wall your not a hero

    June 7, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. oakstave

    "Now 20% Greater"

    June 7, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. wow

    china is lyring those fortresses are goguryeon fortress

    June 7, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Norm

    So the Chinese can build a 13,000 mile wall hundreds of years ago, but we can't build one across our border with Mexico?
    Something doesn't sound right.

    June 7, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
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