What to tell children about the Great Wall of China?


The Great Wall of China is one of the most iconic structures in the world, and it holds great historical and cultural significance. When teaching children about this magnificent wonder, it is important to provide them with an engaging and educational experience. In this article, we will explore various aspects of the Great Wall of China and discuss what information should be shared with children.

1. Introduction to the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is a colossal architectural marvel that stretches across various provinces in northern China. It was built over several dynasties to protect the country from invasions and attacks. The wall is made of stone, brick, wood, and other materials, and it is over 13,000 miles long. It is often referred to as the “Long Wall of Ten Thousand Li,” with a li being a Chinese unit of measurement.

The Purpose and Construction of the Great Wall

The Great Wall was constructed for several reasons:

  1. To protect China from invasions by nomadic tribes
  2. To control trade along the Silk Road
  3. To showcase the power and wealth of the Chinese Empire

The construction of the Great Wall took place over many centuries, starting as early as the 7th century BC. It involved the labor of millions of workers, including soldiers, peasants, and prisoners. The wall was built in sections, with watchtowers, forts, and beacon towers strategically placed along its length.

2. History of the Great Wall of China

Exploring the history of the Great Wall can help children understand its significance and the various dynasties that contributed to its construction. Here are some key points to cover:

Building the Earliest Walls

The earliest walls were built during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) and the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). These walls were made of tamped earth and served as defensive structures for individual states.

Construction during the Qin Dynasty

During the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered the connection and extension of existing walls. This marked the beginning of the Great Wall as we know it today. The walls were connected using rammed earth and stone. The laborers faced immense challenges, including harsh weather conditions and difficult terrain.

Expansion during the Ming Dynasty

The most well-known and well-preserved sections of the Great Wall were built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The Ming Dynasty rulers reinforced the existing walls and constructed additional fortresses, watchtowers, and beacon towers. The bricks used in this period were large and rectangular, stamped with the mark of the Ming Dynasty.

3. Fun Facts about the Great Wall

Children love learning interesting facts! Here are some fascinating tidbits about the Great Wall that will captivate their imagination:

Visible from Space

Contrary to popular belief, the Great Wall cannot be seen from space with the naked eye. However, it is visible from low Earth orbit with the aid of telescopic lenses. This myth captures the imagination of many children.

Human Sacrifices

During its construction, it is believed that many workers lost their lives. Some legends suggest that the bodies of deceased workers were buried within the wall itself as a form of sacrifice to protect the wall from collapse.

4. Cultural Significance of the Great Wall

The Great Wall of China is not only a physical structure but also a symbol of Chinese culture and heritage. Exploring its cultural significance can help children appreciate its importance:

UNESCO World Heritage Site

In 1987, the Great Wall of China was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognizing its cultural and historical value. This designation highlights the global significance of the wall and the need to preserve it for future generations.

Tourism and Cultural Exchange

The Great Wall attracts millions of visitors each year, both from China and around the world. It serves as a symbol of Chinese history and identity, and also provides an opportunity for cultural exchange and tourism.

5. Exploring the Great Wall Today

While it may not be feasible for every child to visit the Great Wall, it is important to introduce them to its current state and ongoing preservation efforts:

Well-Preserved Sections

Some sections of the Great Wall, such as Badaling and Mutianyu, have been restored and are open to the public. These sections allow visitors to walk along the wall, explore watchtowers, and learn about its history through museums and exhibits.

Preservation Challenges

Preserving such an extensive and ancient structure is a challenging task. Children should be made aware of the ongoing efforts to protect and restore the Great Wall, including the use of modern techniques and materials.

6. Lessons from the Great Wall

The Great Wall of China offers valuable lessons that can be shared with children:

Teamwork and Perseverance

The construction of the Great Wall required teamwork, perseverance, and dedication. Children can learn the importance of working together towards a common goal and not giving up in the face of challenges.

Respecting and Preserving History

By learning about the Great Wall, children can develop an appreciation for historical structures and the need to preserve them. They can understand that these structures are not just monuments but also integral parts of a country’s heritage.

7. Conclusion

The Great Wall of China is not only an architectural marvel but also a symbol of China’s rich history and culture. By teaching children about the Great Wall, we can ignite their curiosity, instill appreciation for diverse cultures, and inspire them to explore the wonders of the world. As educators and parents, it is our responsibility to provide children with accurate and engaging information about this iconic structure.

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