The Great Wall of China is one of the most well known pieces of architecture around the world. However, most people know only the bare basics about its construction — that it was built to keep people out. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot to the wall that you may be unfamiliar with. Here are a few facts you may be interested in knowing.
1. Not Exactly One Long Wall
The Great Wall of China actually started out as many walls built to keep out invasions from nomadic groups living on the Eurasian Steppe. Eventually, many of these walls were combined. For this reason, though, there is no one “start” date for the wall — which in reality was built over centuries. Today, the official length of the wall is 13,171 miles.
2. Can You See it From Space?
Although it’s a popular rumor, no, you can’t see the wall from space without any aid. This isn’t too surprising considering the wall, though long, is not wider than several cars across at any point.
3. It’s Not All Well Maintained
Though it’s a huge tourist attraction, it’s also huge. Period. Many sections of the wall are slowly falling apart or, in the case of some villages, being reused. Approximately a third of the wall is already gone, existing only in history and legend. The Northwest sections will potentially disappear within the next 25 years thanks to desertification and changes in land use.
4. You Don’t Need to be Just a Tourist: Volunteering Opportunities
In 2014, 25.3% of Americans said they volunteered. Want to help keep the Great Wall of China a world treasure? There are non profit organizations running volunteer opportunities to repair, clean, and ultimately save the Great Wall. Most volunteer programs include travel and hiking as well. Typically, these groups provide room and board for a set price; if you don’t have $1,000 or more, though, there are nearby Asian non profit organizations that you can check out for local volunteering opportunities. About 98% of volunteers agree that volunteering helps give them a sense of purpose!
5. When Should You Visit?
Most tourists visit the Beijing section of the wall. In summer, the city will be crowded and hot, which is why spring and fall are the best times to potentially visit. Winter temperatures can reach below freezing. If you don’t mind crowds, Tea Appreciation Day in China (held the first week of May) is a great cultural event to check out!