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The Great Wall and Egyptian Pyramids Essay

The “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” refers to remarkable constructions during classical era. Through the ages, there have been numerous versions of the original list of the “Seven Wonders”; however, only one of these miraculous buildings has remained intact-the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, which is also the oldest of the ancient wonders. On the west bank of the Nile River, there are three pyramid erected on a rocky plateau in Giza in the northern part of Egypt. These pyramids were named after these kings-Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure-agree with the kings’ names, and one of the most famous pyramids is the pyramid of Khufu, also known as the Great Pyramid, because it is the largest of the three. The Great Pyramid was built for Khufu, the second king of the 4th dynasty of ancient Egypt, and it is perhaps the most enormous single architecture in the world. The impressing thing is that the Great Pyramid can be photographed from the International Space Station.

Besides the Khufu Pyramid, another structural wonder that can be viewed for the International Space Station is the Great Wall of China located in the northern China. The Great Wall of China, also called the “Long Wall of Ten Thousand Li”, was erected in ancient China, and it is one of the largest constructions ever undertaken. Since the construction of the Wall started, the most intact part of the wall was built in the Ming dynasty. The Great Wall passes through many provinces in China; it runs east to west from Shang Hai Guan in Dandong area, southeastern Liaoning province, to Jia Yu Pass west of Jiuquan, northwestern Gansu province.

“The wall often traces the crest lines of hills and mountains as it snakes across the Chinese countryside, and about one-fourth of its length consists solely of natural barriers such as rivers and mountain ridges” (Encyclopedia Britannica n.d.). Some sections of the wall are damaged and some of them even have vanished through the years, but the Great Wall is still one of the marvelous buildings on the planet. Although the Egyptian Pyramids of Giza ranks the first on the list of “Seven Wonders of the World”, the Great Wall of China is still a more magnificent construction based on the length of tine and hardship it took, as well as the powerful practicality of the Great Wall.

The Great Pyramid was built for Pharaoh Khufu and was called “the Horizon of Khufu”(Jackson and Stamp 16). The Egyptologists think that it took over an approximately 23-year period to construct the pyramid for Khufu, but it did not take that long to complete the Great Pyramid. Craig B. Smith, who is former president of a global engineering, architecture, and construction firm and the author of the book “How The Great Pyramid Was Built”, believes that the it took about 10 years to finish building the Great Pyramid, including the time for project planning and design, site work and preconstruction, Pyramid construction and removing ramps and site cleanup (Smith 232). That’s mainly because it was not possible for Khufu to start construct the Pyramid in the first year of his reign, and no assurance was made that he would live for 23 years. (222).

Compared to the Great Pyramid, it took much longer time to complete the Great Wall of China historically. The first walls in Chinese history date back to the Spring and Autumn Period (722-481 BC), during which the area was still divided effectively among the powerful chiefs of regional kingdoms. During this time and the following Warring States Period (453-221BC), the states of Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei and Qin all built fortifications to protect their own borders. After Qin Shi Huang defeated all opposing states and unified China in 221 BCE, he established the Chin Dynasty and built a new wall by linking up the remaining fortifications and extending them (par. 2).

During the period of Han emperor Wudi (141-87 BCE), the wall was reinforced and extended for about 6000 kilometers (par.3), and the construction lasted for 20 years (Encyclopedia Britannica). After the downfall of the Han Dynasty, the construction of the Great Wall was halted. It was the Ming Emperors, who restored the buildings of the Wall after ending the conflicts with invaders. During the Ming Dynasty, the wall was reconstructed, repaired and rebuilt, and new sections were also added. “Many dynasties reigned over China during this almost 2000 year project,” and the final major renovations were done during the Ming Dynasty (par.3). The time needed to complete the Great Wall is much longer than that used to build the pyramids.

Furthermore, it was much more difficult to construct the Wall in terms of the environment and the manpower. Before building the Great Pyramid, the pharaoh Khufu selected the site prudently in order to choose the most suitable location, and there were five basic requirements for the location. First, the site should be constructed in the sunset region and higher than the Nile’s flood plain to be safe; considering the convenience of transporting materials, the site should also be located on the bank of Nile close to Memphis which was the Egyptian capital. Finally, the site should be located on the solid bedrock and in a plain in order to build suitable levels of foundations of the construction (Jackson and Stamp 23).

Khufu chose Giza as the site of construction, because it occupied a plateau overlooking the Nile River, and there were plenty of raw materials, such as limestone was accessible (Smith 108). According to Craig B. Smith, the exact nature of the workforce it took to build the pyramid is unknown. Smith estimates the total labor needed for construction by dividing the project into various tasks, such as planners and designers, and laborers needed for hauling stone (Smith 216). By adding the direct and indirect labors together, about 4655 workers were needed to build the Great Pyramid (Smith 215).

When it comes to the construction of the Great Wall, it was much harder and consumed more labors. In the beginning, Emperor Qin Shihuang sent an army of 300,000 forced laborers to connect the fragments of the remaining wall and build the new wall. In addition to soldiers, the builders also included the conscripted laborers and prisoners. About 1.8 million people (par.5), nearly about 20 percent of all the manpower in the country during that time, were forced to construct the Great Wall under the threat of swords and whips. These laborers did much more lifting and moving heavier materials, particularly when the materials were changed from earthen stuff to stones, bricks, and granite blocks (par.5).

Not only were the materials heavy, the environment was also not so good for ancient Chinese to build the Wall. Since the laborers should move the materials from the foot of the mountain right to the top, it increased the hardships of building the Wall. Moreover, workers should take care of themselves by buildings new towns along the wall to make houses for living, and the peasants had to grow food not only for themselves but also for supporting those who constructed the Great Wall that dramatically increased the weight of peasants’ work (par.5).

Not only was the building of the Great Wall much harder than building the Great Pyramids, the practicalities of the Wall were also more powerful than those of the pyramid.

The Egyptian pyramids were built as tombs of the pharaohs, and most Egyptologists also believe “the pyramid structure representing just one point in the long continuum of the evolution of tomb design (catchpenny par.4).” The Great Pyramid was built during the Fourth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, and it was about 2550 years before the Christ was born (Smith 86). The great modernist architect Le Corbusier, he clarified the Great Pyramid as “a machine for living in”, or more exactly, “as a machine for resurrection (Jackson and Stamp 72).” In his book “The Great Pyramid Decoded”, Lemesurier thinks that the Great Pyramid is an indicator by God (plim sec.11), and many Egyptians thought of their respectful pharaohs as the Gods, and the pyramids were constructed for them as “stair steps to the Gods (Smith 178).”

The Great Wall was first built during the Spring and Autumn Period by six kingdoms (Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei and Qin) for the protection purposes. After Qin state became stronger, emperor Qin unified China, but the Donghu and Loufan , tow nomadic peoples from the north, still frequently invaded China, consequently, emperor Qin erected a wall from Lintiao to the Yellow River to resist the invasion of raiders (Encyclopedia Britannica). During Han Dynasty, Han Wudi strengthened the protection by building two other paralleled walls in the north of Yin Mountain, and the Great Wall played a significant role in protecting the Han territory from the invasion by xiongnu(History of The Great Wall par.3).

During the Ming Dynasty, the rulers maintained and reinforced the Wall to protect the country from Mongolian’s invasion. Furthermore, the Great Wall was constructed along the crest line; therefore, people needed to build towns for living along the construction of the Wall, which made the desolate places flourishing towns. The construction of the Great Wall also promoted the growth of agriculture. Since people who built the Wall were unable to go home and get together with their family, rulers commanded peasants to grow more crops for those people. Therefore, building the Great Wall not only promoted the prosperity of the country but also increased the economy at that time.

Ultimately, the Great Wall is a greater feat of engineering than the Egyptian pyramids in terms of the length of time, the hardship and the practicalities. The Great Wall was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It is very meaningful for historians to discover the history of China, and the Great Wall is also an important tie to develop the relationship between the minorities and people of Han nationality.

Work Cited

“Great Wall of China.” _Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online_.

Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 05 Mar. 2012.


“Pyramids of Giza.” _Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online_. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 05 Mar. 2012. .

“The Great Wall of China.” _World Heritage Sites_. N.p, 2008-2011. Web. 06 Mar. 2012.

“World Heritage List.” _United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization-World Heritage Convention_. UNESCO World Heritage Centre, 1992-2012. Web. 06 Mar. 2012. < http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/438/>

“Great Wall Construction.” _The Great Wall of China._ N.p, 1998-2004. Web. 06 Mar. 2012.

Jackson, Kevin and Jonathan Stamp. _Building The Great Pyramid._ Toronto: Firefly, 2003. Print.

Smith, Craig B. _How The Great Pyramid Was Built._ Washington: Smithsonian, 2004. Print.

“Discovery & Research.” Great Wall. N.p, 2006. Web. 05 Mar. 2012.

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