Can you see the Great Wall of China from space? It is time to tackle some popular questions and misconceptions about the Great Wall.
What comes to your mind when you think of the Great Wall of China?
Are you thinking of a single great wall that stretches through China? One so massive that you can see it from space? If you are, you are wrong. In this text, I will explore three common questions about the famous Chinese fortifications:
- Is the Great Wall of China a single wall?
- Is the Great Wall one of the 7 Wonders of the World?
- Can you see the Great Wall of China from Space?
One can also question the Chineseness of the Great Wall: Who made the Great Wall of China?
Misconceptions about the Great Wall of China
Is the Great Wall of China a single wall?
For some reason, many people think that the Great Wall of China consists of one massively long wall. On my travels, I’ve heard people dreaming of walking it from one end to the other.
No, the Great Wall is not just a singular wall. It is a set of walls, built all over China in a period of over 2,000 years. This infographic from Wikipedia offers a clear view of the fortification system:
The Great Wall of China is not a singular structure, but an ensemble of different defense systems. It is a wondrous system, but just how wondrous is it?
That leads to another question…
Is The Great Wall of China one of the Seven Wonders of the World?
No – and yes. It depends on what seven wonders you mean. The Great Wall of China is not one of the classic “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World“. Those were the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Temple of Artemis, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.
Out of those original Seven Wonders, only the Great Pyramid of Giza – which I visited in 2018 – remains.
The list of Medieval wonders is not fully established. Different lists started appearing in the 19th and the 20th century, and their contents vary a little. The Great Wall is included in most versions of the list, though.
The New 7 Wonders of the World are more famous, but their origin is quite strange. The New 7 Wonders were selected with an online poll in the early 2000s. A single person could vote multiple times.
The new seven consists of the Great Wall, Petra in Jordan, the Colosseum, Chichén Itzá, Machu Picchu, Taj Mahal and… Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. Needless to say, countries like Peru, Mexico and Brazil campaigned very heavily to have their wonders featured.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Angkor Wat, Stonehenge and the Moai Statues of Easter Island didn’t make it to the final group. The Great Pyramid of Giza was given an honorary status as the 8th entry on the list.
Can You See the Great Wall of China from Space?
No, you cannot see the Great Wall of China from space – at least not without a telescope.
There’s a common claim that the Great Wall of China was the only man-made structure that could be seen from space. I remember hearing the story as a kid, and the myth is so common that even Nasa has debunked it. Some even believe that the Great Wall can be seen from the Moon.
Just think about it: the Great Wall of China is a wall. It’s about 5 (15 feet) meters wide.
If you could spot a single 5-meter wide object from space, you could also see every single tennis field and school bus in the world. Even if you could spot the Great Wall, it wouldn’t be the only structure visible.
Was the Great Wall of China Built by the Chinese?
Here’s a peculiar angle on the whole topic of the Great Wall. The structures that arepart of the Great Wall were built by different dynasties in different eras.But who defines what’s part of the Great Wall and what is not?
Well, the Chinese government does. And they might read history in a way that fits their narrative.
According to The Atlantic, in 2012, the Chinese government declared that the wall was 2.5 times longer than previously thought. If counted from one end to the other, the whole system would reach 13,000 miles (21,000 km), which is more than half of the Earth’s circumference. The extra length came from an addition of old ruins at the Korean border.
This claim was met with skepticism from Korea. Were those ruins really Chinese, or were they built by Koreans or someone else? These walls were built outside the Ming dynasty, and they were not originally part of a Chinese nation.
This topic gets even more interesting when you read what’s excluded from the definition of the Great Wall of China. Similar structures like the newly-added ruins also exist in North Korea and Siberia, but they are not part of the system defined by China.
Can you see the Great Wall from space? Is the Great Wall one of the Ancient 7 Wonders of the world? Even though the answer is no, it doesn’t take away the charm of the historical structure. The Great Wall of China is worth a visit, no matter its status.
If you ever go to space and can’t see the Great Wall of China, don’t be disappointed. I’m sure that other views would make up for it.