The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China


Twenty-two centuries after the building of the Great Wall of China, the Chinese are still fond of telling stories about its construction. This is one of the most widely told:

"The Emperor Ch'in had a dream of two hares, one of which caught the sun in its arms. The other, jealous, struggled to get possession of the orb of day. A black hare arrived on the scene, separated the combatants, and took the sun away himself.

"Greatly troubled, Ch'in summoned the wise men of his court in the morning, and demanded from them, on pain of death, the proper reading of the dream. They conferred at length, and then told the Emperor, 'The first two hares are the two warring kingdoms of China. The black hare represents the Black Tartars of the north. The meaning of the dream is, if China remains weak and divided, the Tartars will triumph over us.'

"'What steps do you suggest to prevent this?' asked the Emperor Ch'in.

"The wise men recommended building a great wall along the northern boundary of Ch'in's domain, to keep the barbarians out. Ch'in at once commanded that such a wall be built, and issued a decree that should have perpetual force, that in the present and all future time, any man found taking a nap on the wall should be buried alive in the construction."

We westerners are amused by such simple tales, but we prefer the sturdier joys of statistics. There is a marvelous superabundance of Great Wall statistics. Westerners have never ceased to delight in compiling them.

For example, it has been computed that the Great Wall--which traces a zigzag course for nearly 2,500 miles across China--contains enough material to build a barrier eight feet high and three feet thick, completely encircling the globe at the Equator. In 1790, a member of the British Embassy to the Chinese Court estimated that the Great Wall contained more brick and stone than all the buildings of the United Kingdom. Superimposed on a map of the United States, the Great Wall would run from Philadelphia to Topeka, Kansas. Over-

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