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Ask the Experts

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO BUILD THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA?

The Great Wall isn’t a single wall at all, but a series of bulwarks and fortifications. The first went up some four centuries before Qin Shi Huang, who became China’s first emperor in 221 BC, ordered a decadelong project to unite and expand these defences into a single barrier.

Construction to create the current 13,000 miles of wall continued, on and off, for more than two millennia. Much of what remains was built during the Ming Dynasty. While intended to keep out foreign invaders, Genghis Khan demonstrated how even a wall as great as this had a flaw. He marched his Mongol horde around one of the sides.

AT GREAT COST At least 400,000 people, many of them slaves, died during the construction of the Great Wall of China

DID YOU KNOW?

A STICKY FOUNDATION

Sections of the Great Wall owe their longevity to a rather unusual mortar – glutinous rice flour. Just as strong and waterproof as cement, this ‘sticky rice’ sealed the bricks so tightly that weeds are unable to grow between them.

ALAMY X1, GETTY X1
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About BBC History Revealed

Long before the seven wonders of the ancient world were even dreamt of, work had begun on Salisbury Plain to construct a monument out of stones. Why was Stonehenge built, who built it, and for what purpose? We explore the very latest theories behind England's oldest mystery. Plus: The brief reign of Tudor king Edward VI, the sacrifices of domestic servants, the D-Day trial that was a complete disaster, a full gallery of newly colourised pictures of the past, and more.