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. dutch

    i love it that dave spelled welfare with two L's. Making fun of welfare then spelling it wrong...IRONY!

    June 7, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Billy

    Actually according to state run agencies the wall is ONE MILLION kilometers long, is now made of gold, has razor sharp spikes, and is the greatest accomplishment humanity has ever achieved.

    June 7, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. db

    Tree huggers or politically correctly identified as enviormental saviors would object so it could not happen here.

    June 7, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mendrys

      You mean informed people making pragmatic decisions instead of looking for quick fixes that in the long run won't accomplish anything? Maybe we should build a great wall ourselves and have armed guards stationed at regularly positioned turrets to keep out the 'undesirables" You know that has been tried in the past and true enough was effective to some extent. Just tell your children not to be too surprised when they wake up one day and find that the guns are turned inward.

      June 8, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al Bundy

      That and we don't have hundreds of thousands of slaves to build it moron!

      June 10, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kochigachi

    Fake walls of China

    June 8, 2012 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Arthurrrr


      June 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bannister

    I'm glad to see so many Korean vs Chinese comments on this board. It's a welcome break from the Mexican vs American comments!

    June 8, 2012 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
  6. New Gawker

    goguryeo means slow witted step child in Chinese.

    June 8, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • me

      goguryeo is not a chinese name, word korea comes from goryeo short for goguryeo.

      June 8, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • G E

      New Gawker means BOZO in Chinese.

      June 8, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Aaron Chaney

    Romney vs Frankenstein (Obama)

    Put simply, better the devil you don't know. Vote Romney

    June 8, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • glennrobert

      My! You are confused!

      June 8, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      I dunno. Why settle for the lesser evil?

      June 10, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shazaam

      Frankenstein was a scientist in the story. And you're a tool on the internet.

      June 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pepinium

      Aaron, the only way you are not an I D I O T is if you are a millionaire.

      June 10, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. glennrobert

    No wall built for political or defense reasons has ever worked!

    June 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • jkflipflop

      There are many fortresses in the US alone that say your comment is stupid.

      June 9, 2012 at 3:05 am | Report abuse |
  9. Daisy

    Someday I will visit the "Great Wall".

    June 8, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. cpc65

    It's amazing it is still standing after all this time with a Made in China label on it.

    June 9, 2012 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  11. website design newyork

    Pretty component of content. I simply stumbled upon your web site and in accession capital to say that I acquire in fact loved account your blog posts. Anyway I'll be subscribing to your feeds and even I fulfillment you get admission to constantly rapidly.

    June 9, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  12. iting First

    And they are radioactive, too. With high levels of lead.

    June 10, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. zzBottom

    we need one of these on the mexico border

    June 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Salad Spinner

    Too bad the wall didn't keep Walmart over there!

    June 10, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Miller

    I ran the Great Wall of China in less than 52 hours...My next goal is to do it back and forth in less than 80 hours. No stopping hooah!

    June 10, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
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