The Great Wall of China: what is it made of?


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Found a book in French so google translation again which describes the wall in 1735 It also has some very interesting drawings and Tartary gets many a mention. Du Halde: Description, tome premier

From the beginning of said book.

Jean-Baptiste Du Halde: Description of the empire of China
In Paris, at P. G. LEMERCIER, printer-librarian, rue Saint-Jacques, in the book of gold, 1735.

General idea of the empire of China.

From the Great Wall that separates China from Tartary.

People named Si fan, or Tou fan. Tartars of Coconor. From the Lo los nation. From the Miao nation sse. - Various roads.

Geographic Description of the Provinces of China.

Fasts of the Chinese monarchy.

From the Great Wall that separates China from Tartary

It was by a political view that the famous Emperor Tsin Chi Hoang, determined in the year 221 BC to build this famous wall, which limits China to the north, and defends against the neighboring Tartars, which then divided in different nations, subject to various princes, could scarcely do anything other than to inconvenience him by unexpected courses, and to excite trouble by their looting. There had not yet been an example of a meeting in the Western Tartars as we saw it at the beginning of the thirteenth century, that China became their conquest.

There is probably nothing in the rest of the universe that approaches this work, continued along three great provinces, Pe tche li, Chan si, & Chen si, often built in places that seem inaccessible, & fortified by a series of military places built with equal expense.

This wall begins with a large stone boulevard raised in the sea east of Peking, and almost at the same height, being 40 degrees 2 minutes 6 seconds in the province of Pechet; it is as well terraced and covered with brick, as high, but much wider than the walls of the ordinary cities of the empire, that is to say, from 20 to 25 feet in height.

Father Regis, and the Fathers who drew up the map of the provinces with him, had several times drawn the rope over, to measure bases of triangle, and to take with the instrument distant points: they always found them well paved and large enough for five or six horsemen to be able to walk abreast at their ease.

The gates of the Great Wall are fortified inside by forts large enough: the first east is called Chang hai koan, it is near the Wall, which from the Boulevard built in the sea, extends for a long time. a league in a completely full field, and begins to rise on the slopes of the mountains only after this place. It was the Chinese general, who commanded in this quarter, who called the Tartars of the province of Leao Tong which is beyond: and this was what gave occasion to the Tartars to seize China, despite the confidence that they had in this rampart of their wall, which seemed insurmountable.

Such is the vicissitude of human things: the exterior defenses, and all the forces of a state, serve only to produce revolutions more sudden, and even to hasten their ruin, if they are not supported by virtue. by the application of the prince to the government.

The other forts also known, are Hi fong keou, at 40 degrees 26 minutes; Tou keou at 41 degrees 19 minutes 20 seconds; Chiang Kia Keou at 40 degrees 5 minutes 15 seconds; two famous entrances among the Tartars subject to the empire who go to Peking by these passages; & Cou pe keou at 40 degrees 43 minutes 15 seconds. This is where the Emperor Cang went out to Tartary, and went to Ge ho ell. This place is more than 40 leagues from Peking always rising to the north; they are only mountains where he took the pleasure of hunting; the path that leads from Peking is handmade, and united like a ball game.

It was there that this great prince passed more than half of the year, not ceasing to govern his vast empire as easily as a father governs his house: although he returned late from the hunt, he did not he never slept until he had sent all the requests, and the next day he was still up before daybreak. One was often surprised to see him at the age of sixty, and although the snow fell with large flakes, on horseback in the middle of a large part of his guards, dressed as lightly as they, charged with a side of his bow, and on the other side of his quiver, without deigning to use a chair which followed him empty.

All these places are terraced and covered with bricks on both sides in the whole province of Pecheti, but as soon as we leave it to pass to that of Chan si to Tien Tching Ouei, the Wall begins to be nothing but earth. beaten: it is without crenellations, and without plaster, not wide, and no more than fifteen feet high.

However, when we passed Cha hou keou at 40 degrees 19 minutes, the place where the Muscovites come straight from Selingisko, it is paved outside brick, and among its towers there are some that are very wide & built of bricks on a stone base: but it does not always continue in the same way.

The Hoang Ho River, bordered by sentry boxes, where soldiers are guarding day and night, serves as the Great Wall towards the boundary between Chan province and Chen province.

Beyond the Hoang Ho, when we go to the west in the province of Chen if, the Wall is no more than land: it is low, narrow, sometimes silted, because it is in a sandy and full field In some places quite ruined, but on the other hand the entrance is defended by several considerable cities,
such as are Yu ling hien at 33 degrees 15 minutes; Ning hia, Lan chou at 37 degrees 59 minutes; Kan chou at 39 degrees; Sou chou & Si ning, where general officers reside with corps of troops. That of Kan chou is the general commander called ti tou; the others are only general lieutenants called tsong ping.

Ning hia is the best of these cities, and is more beautiful, richer, and above all better built than most of the cities of the empire; it is even large enough, for if we take one and the other an inhabited speaker, as a single entity, she has fifteen Chinese lilies of her turn.

The industry of the inhabitants has made the land fertile; they have made canals and sluices to drive the waters of the Hoang Ho River to their lands, when they need to be watered. The ditches of the city have salt springs, which are salt. There are manufactures of woolen stuffs, and Turkish carpets are being worked there.

The mountains are so high in the district of Ning hia that, seven or eight leagues from the city, they take the place of a great wall in the space of about ten leagues; they are very steep, and almost all narrow.

Souchou, who is at 39 degrees 45 minutes 40 seconds, is a fairly big city, but less beautiful and less merchant than Ning hia, although she commands the soldiers who are at Kia yu koan where we go to Hami & in several districts of the Kalkas Tartars.

The wall is but of earth in these cantons, but it is better maintained than elsewhere, because of the neighborhood of the inhabitants of Hami, who have only submitted to the emperor for a few years. The walls of Kia yu koan are not brick, but they are well furnished with soldiers who defend this important entrance.

When we passed a small town named Chuang lan, because it is located at the meeting of two roads, one of which is in the valley, which goes by Lang chou to Kia yu koan, & the other one along the mountains that go to Si ning tcheou there is no more wall, but only a ditch dug on purpose and mediocre broad, except in the gorges which are near Si ning, and which are walled up like those of the province of Chen if.

The town of Si Ning, which is 36 degrees 59 minutes away, is not big, but it surpasses Ning hia by its trade: everything that comes from the fur trade of Western Tartary, is sold in this town, or in a town neighbor named Topa. It is certain that this place is better than a great city, although it is, moreover, rather badly situated and badly built. You can find almost anything you want from foreign goods from China, various drugs, saffron, dates, coffee, & c.

When Father Regis was there to work on the map of the country, he found there three or four Armenian Catholics who had settled there, and had opened shop of the beautiful skins which they went to seek with the Tartars. Houses and shops are much more expensive in this town, than in the town of Si Ning, which is only four leagues distant.

What is singular is that this village does not depend on the mandarins of Si ning, but on a bona lama, who is always in the same family to which this land belongs. This family is the most important of the nation, which is called Si fan ou Tou fan, of which I will give a more extensive knowledge.

The emperors of the preceding family, in order to better assure the repose of the nation, by rendering the place where they held their court as impregnable, had built a second wall as strong and as surprising as the old. It still remains entirely in the Pe tche li, at 76 lis Peking, in one of the main doors named Nan keou, ten miles away, on the slope of a high mountain, where we go to Suen hoa crazy, & by that to Tai tong of Chan province. It is a small fortified town of several walled enclosures, which follow the ups and downs of the mountains that are next, and surprise by such a bold structure.

This wall, which is called the Great Inner Wall, joins with the other north of Peking near Suen hoa fou, where is a garrison; continues along the western part of the Pe chche province, and extends into the province of Chan si, where it has fallen in many places.
Among the city plans that are towards the middle of this volume, one will find engraved the plan of a part of the Great Wall on the side of Yong crazy ping.

When one considers the number of squares and forts built between these two walls, and all that is on the eastern side, one can not help admiring the care and efforts of the Chinese, who seem to have exhausted all means human foresight may suggest for the defense of their kingdom, and for public tranquility.

City plans here Du Halde: Description, tome premier

Showing drawings of sections of the wall like these



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Another from 1890 again German but titled "West End of the Chinese Wall"
Loads of China engravings/woodcuts/prints/photographs here


Wood engraving 1844


Wood engraving ca 1870. On the reverse side is an image of the Gate at Nan-Kow.


The Great Wall of China (Nang Kao Pass) Wood engraving ca 1870.
(I get the impression there was a tour guide of sorts in use back then)

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The Great Wall. View taken at the Nankow pass c1885


Plan of Longguan, near the Great Wall, depending on Xuanhua; Plan of a part of the Great Wall, Lulong county (Yongping), protected by several forts 1749



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May be the defensive capabilities. It appears that it can be collapsed with rather low military effort.
With a couple of garden hoses, apparently. Was this thing really made for defense? Couldn't enemies shoot flaming arrows over the wall from the nearest hills? Maybe it was one of those privacy fences put up to offend the neighbors.


I don’t see how any type of maintenance coild be conducted on a 21,196 kilometer dirt wall. If it’s falling apart in the area where it is decently maintained, than what about other areas which withstood “thousands” of years.


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Very interesting. What are those posts along the top of the wall, and those two pointy towers in the background? Could the wall's original purpose be hidden, in modern times, by a cloud of historical lies?

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