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.

Post by:
Filed under: Architecture • China
soundoff (144 Responses)
  1. Joe

    Well, that solves it. Going to Panda Express for dinner.

    June 10, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. alfranken

    Can we get North Korean slaves to work on this problem immediately?

    June 10, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Fallen Angel

    Since the Chinese already build almost everything we buy because of the cheap labor.Why don't we order our own Wall of China in multiple shipments from the HSN and lay it across California,Arizona,Texas and New Mexico (did I miss one state? not sure)This way we can keep all the Mexicans out.

    June 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      then who is going to do the jobs the obese lazy americans wont do?

      June 10, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • RS

      Hey Fallen Angel; We are already here. Build the wall and we can't leave.

      June 10, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bingasaurus

      As a Native American, I like this plan. But first, let's put everyone who thinks like you on the Mexican wall, and bring all the Mexicans over here. I think we'd do a lot better.

      June 10, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • DebAH

      @RS & @Bingasaurus good responses! :p

      June 10, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • israel

      they'll just float their way to florida

      June 11, 2012 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
    • john

      As a nation founded by immigrants for immigrants, I can't imagine what we have against Mexicans coming into our country. Sure, they aren't doing it legally, but the mexican economy has been so bad for so long that coming here to find work is actually the only way they can keep their families alive by providing them the money to buy such luxuries as food and housing. Jobs are just that scarce. However, due to the current american economic climate and the recent boost to the mexican economy, mexicans have begun to leave here and return to mexico, because mexico is beginning to get some decent job prospects.

      The more you know, the less ignorantly offensive you will be.

      June 11, 2012 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Atul Chaudhary

      New Chinese manufacturing is not the same quality as the old ones. These walls will last for 2 or 3 years only.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Build a wall there, and they'll cross the border elsewhere...just as is happening now in Arizona. We can't just solve this problem by building walls.

      June 11, 2012 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
  4. ryan

    I can tell you first hand that there are thousands of jobs that are being taking by illegal immigrants that hard working americans use to do bspurloc

    June 10, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • kris

      Ryan, this is not the case... From my experience as a contractor, i am constantly looking for hard workers and have a very difficult time finding people with good work ethic especially americans.... If someone has the ambition to come to america in order to earn money to send back home, then chances are they have a good work ethic... Not true of many americans...

      June 11, 2012 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
  5. Randoms

    The Mexicans must be laughing at this...why go over, when you can dig 50ft under?

    June 10, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. armchrexpert

    Lot of Americans don't realize it but only a few miles of the Great Wall have ever been restored. The rest is just rubble.

    Same for the Mayan monuments in Mexico, only a few sites are under any kind of management, and there are other sites that haven't been cleared because the government just doesn't have money to do it.

    June 10, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • acajunthatsagun

      Had they been built like the pyramids there would be no need to restore them.

      June 11, 2012 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  7. blessedgeek

    The size of my local Great Wall buffet is larger than I previously thought.

    June 11, 2012 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
    • USBorderPatrol

      ...and so are the people coming out of it.

      June 11, 2012 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
  8. Alex

    Too bad, I'm from Hong Kong, even China got a great wall but too bad, outsider Mandarin already invaded China, now every one in Chinese speak non Chinese (Mandarin), Cantonese is the true chinese but invaded by outsider

    June 11, 2012 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  9. USBorderPatrol

    And the U.S. still can't keep the Mexicans out.

    June 11, 2012 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  10. American Citizen.

    I'm surprised that China got the math wrong.

    June 11, 2012 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Sparkee

      Now that was funny.

      June 11, 2012 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  11. Penny Nickels

    I can build a ladder that can climb on top of that wall.

    June 11, 2012 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
    • acajunthatsagun

      Defending uphill is significantly more difficult than defending downhill. We'll just push your ladder off the wall.

      June 11, 2012 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
  12. acajunthatsagun

    Didn't keep the Mongols out!

    June 11, 2012 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jokar

    Guys and gals, we have started building a wall, the so called fense in parts of Texas that are really tall solid sheets of metal, but someone decided it would be best to install the wall at the higher end of the flood plajn for the river systems, so that some actual US land is on the Mexican side of the fense. And Americans have to travel miles to be inside our "protective" border. Some of those planners need to be shoved thru the gates and have the gates welded closed behind them.

    June 11, 2012 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  14. mark

    2000 years of wall building? that's a long time to live next to neighbors you don't get along with

    June 11, 2012 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
  15. Josie

    No mention of a wall to keep out Canadians. I am beginning to suspect colorism.

    June 11, 2012 at 7:10 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6