With the film The Great Wall, featuring Matt Damon, released this month across most of the world, we thought it would be a great opportunity to give an overview of how this momentous construction project was built.

The Great Wall of China is the longest building on earth with a length of 13,170 miles. Made from a combination of brick, stone, wood and other materials, it was originally constructed primarily to serve as a defence against the nomadic invasions from the north that threatened Chinese states / empires. Given the scale of the project, it created thousands of jobs over the years, but not the ones that you would typically associate with the construction profession today.

How did engineers construct it?

The Great Wall of China is not one continuous structure as such, but a series of walls and fortifications built across several hundreds of years.

Many smaller walls were built between the 8th and 5th centuries BC for each state to defend their territory. After unifying China in 221BC, the Qin Dynasty ordered these smaller walls to be destructed but ordered the building of new walls to connect some of the existing walls in the north.

The Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644)  revived the wall in the 14th century AD due to increased Mongol tribe pressure andbuilt an extraordinary25,000 watchtowers. If you are a modern day construction firm imagine taking that order today?!


The first Emperor of Qin ordered 300,000 soldiers to build the wall and peasants were also used to supplement the labour force. Builders of the wall always tried to use local resources, so the walls that crossed mountains were made from stone, and the walls that crossed the plains were made from rammed earth.

The much later Ming Dynasty built a stronger wall by using more bricks and stone instead of rammed earth like some of the first phases. They used lime mortar, and the workers built brick and cement factories with local materials near the wall.

Over the ages, the wall used around 100 million tonnes of brick, stone, and mud. An impressive feat for a structure that was built before modern construction machinery. It was transported in a variety of ways: by hand, shoulder or back; wheel barrows and ropes; and animals, including camels, horses and even goats.

It was also recently discovered that the strength of the wall is partly due to the use of sticky rice throughout the mortar of the structure – do you any construction projects today that could do with some sticky rice?!

During the Ming Dynasty the wall transformed  into what you can mostly see today - it became more than just a simple wall, but a piece of major infrastructure for the country, channeling communication flows and water flows.

The wall crosses rivers, valleys, and other challenging terrain, and given the time periods it was built in, there’s no doubt that it was a marvel of engineering. #engineersrule!

Whilst we can’t promise to place you on to a project that will become a new “wonder of the world” we do have a variety of fantastic construction and Infrastructure projects around the world which are challenging the builders and engineers of today and require a variety of skill sets to get the job done! If you’d like to get involved and put your mark on the next big thing in construction, search our jobs today or get in touch.


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