Weird History
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12 Mind-Boggling Facts About Building The Great Wall of China

Updated October 14, 2018 27.8k views12 items

The Great Wall of China is one of the most iconic structures built in human history. It was one of the most extensive and arduous construction projects in human history. The project caused untold suffering for millions of soldiers, peasants, and convicts from across the newly unified country. Families were torn apart, and children died hundreds of miles away from their loved ones.

Originally thought of as a defensive structure, the Great Wall had periods of relevance and neglect. Despite the fact it lasted several dynasties, the resources were eventually found to complete the wall during the Ming Dynasty. Today, it stands as one of the most impressive structures on the face of the planet, but it took a great deal of hardship to accomplish its completion.  

  • Children Were Forced To Work On The Wall

    In one of many moves intended to help solve the labor problem that the Wall created, children were forcibly brought on to work on construction. In many cases, this tore families apart for good because of the high mortality rates for those working on the Wall.

    For a long time, families were frightened to have boys because there was a high likelihood that they would be taken away and conscripted into Wall labor. Many women lost both their husband and son to the construction, leaving them in extremely difficult social and economic positions. 

  • Wall Construction Increased Taxes All Over The Country

    A massive wall isn't free, especially when you're employing a majority of your country's laborers in the building process. As a result, Chinese emperors did everything from raising taxes to holding lotteries to muster up the necessary cash to back the project.

    Unfortunately, they still weren't able to feed many of their workers. Rumor has it that many workers who survived went on to live many years exempted from taxes in return for their years of suffering.  

  • The Wall Needed Constant Repairs

    Despite the fact that the Wall was constantly being worked on, construction took so long that by the time one section was finished an old section would have fallen into disrepair. Several successive dynasties worked consistently on extending and repairing the Wall until it lost its importance as a defensive structure under the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE).

    However, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE) expansions and improvements on the Great Wall recommenced.

  • Over A Million Workers Died During Construction

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Scholars estimate that more than a million workers died under the harsh conditions and the backbreaking labor of the Great Wall construction. Contrary to popular belief, however, their bodies were not buried inside the structure.

    It may sound efficient, but decomposing bodies would have shifted over time and weakened the wall overall, and refortifying the Wall was already an arduous-enough task for the laborers.