Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

Follow along with us as we explore World Cultures - subscribe by email


Blog Archive

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Great Wall of China {With Book & Activity Recommendations}

Photo Credit: Dragon Woman
The Great Wall, China's symbol of national pride, would surely be a sight to behold. One of the longest man made structures on earth, it is in fact made up of different sections, built by various dynasties over the course of centuries. 

It began with Qin, the first emperor of China in 221 BC. in order to keep out the invading Huns. Qin's wall connected various walls previously built by separate states. Built by hand, workers beat layers of the earth down to compact it. 

In China, the Great Wall is known as The Long Wall of 10,000 Li
(a li is a measure of distance, used in many expressions, and not taken literally)

Photo Credit: Remko Tanis
Although many dynasties added to the wall over the centuries, it was the Ming dynasty in the 14th century that made the greatest contribution. Built from brick and stone, what survives today is mostly from the Ming dynasty as the construction was stronger and better able to weather the years. The Ming built the wall and defended it with nearly 1 million soldiers from the threat of invasion and attacks from the Mongols. Watchtowers are built at regular intervals that were used as lookouts, fortresses, housing, and signal stations.

Contrary to popular myth, the Great Wall cannot be seen from space.

Photo Credit: Dermot Roantree
The Great Wall is also referred to as "The longest cemetery on Earth". During the Qin and Ming dynasties, millions died in its construction. Slaves, criminals, soldiers, farmers were all forced to work the wall for little or no pay, in horrible conditions. During the Qin dynasty, it caused a famine because so many farmers were working on the wall; during the Ming dynasty, taxes were raised so much to oversee its construction it led to the Ming's downfall.

Want to Learn More?

Discovery Channel has a great 2:30 min. video with a concise overview and great views.

The China Guide offers a virtual tour of a few sections of the wall, giving the impression of standing on the wall itself.

Below are two great books to learn about the Great Wall, as well as Chinese history and culture in relation to it:

The Great Wall: The story of thousands of miles of earth and stone that turned a nation into a fortress (Wonders of the World Book) by Elizabeth Mann.
This is a great book to learn about the Great Wall and the Ming dynasty, in an engaging and easily understood manner. Accompanied with great illustrations, parts are told by means of an adventure story, and others as non fiction learning, but all of which retained the girls attention throughout. 

The Seven Chinese Brothers (Blue Ribbon Book) by Margaret Mahy
Set during the Chin dynasty, when the construction of the wall began under horrible conditions, this folk tale is a fantasy story of seven brothers. Though they seem very much alike, they each have different magical powers. Using their powers, and relying on each other, they put an end to the cruel emperor.

Extension Activity

Build your own Great Wall

High Hill Homeschool made a model of the Great Wall with sugar cubes

All Things Beautiful made a model of the Great Wall with styrofoam bricks.

Books are a wonderful way to experience new worlds and ideas. Our house is filled with books, most of which are borrowed from our public library. Public libraries are an incredible resource, making books accessible to everyone, and we highly encourage everyone to discover theirs. If you are hoping to build your own home library, I've made it easy by linking book titles to Amazon.com. Please note that I have become affiliated with them, which means that if you make a purchase, you are also supporting this website. 


  1. Wonderful post...I am pinning this to refer to later (and thank you for the mention.)

    1. Thanks! Your great wall turned out so great, so glad it was available to mention :)

  2. I always thought it was available to see from space....I wonder where all these myths come from? Again a great selection of books I missed out on!

    1. I know! At first I told the kids the same, then we watched a documentary and found various sources that absolutely debunked the space myth. Hard to argue with astronauts :) Oops!

  3. Awww, I always thought it was cool you could see it from space.

    1. Oh those myths! It would have been pretty cool - gotta hand it to the "marketing" - it's been working for years!


Thanks for stopping by to visit. Please feel free to leave a comment, it's lovely to hear from you!

Blog Design by Delicious Design Studio