The Great Wall of China is one of the world’s most impressive structures. At over 13,000 miles long, it’s the world’s longest wall. It’s also an extremely long-standing feat of construction. Work on the wall is said to have started as early as 770 BC!

Today, much of the wall still stands, and there have been plenty of tales told about it over the years. But can you separate fact from fiction? Prepare to have your mind blown by these four lies you were told about the Great Wall of China.

It Was Built All at One Time

Photo of the Great Wall at sunset
Credit: zhao jiankang/ Shutterstock

The Great Wall of China was a huge undertaking. But it wasn’t all constructed at one time. While it’s commonly believed that the entire wall was constructed under the guidance of Emperor Quin Shi Huang during 259-210 BC, this isn’t quite right. In fact, it was constructed over a wide span of years: between 770 BC and 1878 AD. That’s a huge span of time!

The first phase of construction is said to have begun during the so-called Spring and Autumn Period, which lasted from 770-276 BC. The earliest portions of the wall were built during this time. However, it was added on to for years after, and what is considered the last major addition was added in 1878 by the Qing Dynasty.

It Has Always Defended the Border

Photo of switchbacks of the Great Wall
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Plenty of people think that this highly-fortified wall has always been successful at keeping out attackers. But that hasn’t been the case all of the time.

While the Great Wall acted as an effective barrier between the Chinese Empire and its neighbors to the north, invaders were able to get past it quite a few times.

Over the years, many tribes have been able to breach the border. For example, the Mongols of the 13th century were able to breach the wall following the lead of legendary warrior Genghis Khan. Several other breaches occurred over the years as well.

It Was Made With Regular Mortar

Photo taken from on top the Great Wall, with bright sun in the background
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When you think about constructing a wall, you probably think about traditional materials like brick and mortar. But the Great Wall of China was constructed way before places like Home Depot existed, so it was made with some unexpected materials.

The “ingredients” list for the Great Wall of China is somewhat unique. Yes, it features plenty of bricks, stones, and rocks that are closely packed. That may not sound odd, but you may be surprised by how they made these pieces stick together. Ancient builders didn’t use the traditional mortar made from sand and cement that we use today. They used a mixture made with glutinous rice flour, which helped create an adhesive.

You Can See It From Space

Photo of the Earth from space
Credit: NASA

It’s a dazzling tale indeed: astronauts flying high above the earth can see the Great Wall of China from outer space. This is not true!

The wall is impressive in scale, but according to NASA, you’re not going to see it from space.

In fact, Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei reported from space that he was unable to see the Great Wall. Other astronauts have reported similarly. As astronauts will tell you, it’s not viewable with the naked eye but requires a telephoto lens.

A Great Wall Indeed

Sunset photo of the Great Wall with mountains in the background
Credit: fotohunter/ Shutterstock

The Great Wall of China is one of the most impressive structures in not just China but the entire world. With its incredible history and impressive size, there’s no wonder it intrigues so many people. Now you have an idea of what’s true and what’s false about this incredible wall.