My China videos

Now that I’m going to be staying in one place for a bit, it’s time to get back to the blog back-fill. I’ll get to the Philippines soon, but I’ve had these China videos kicking around for a bit now so I thought I might as well post them. I did two because for me Xinjiang was SO different from the rest of China that it felt like another country altogether. And it’s just one of my most favorite places. 🙂

Hope you enjoy! 🙂



One last (rambling and random) post on China

I’ve been meaning to wrap up China with one final post for a while now. At the moment I’m sitting on a plane that is taking us to our final destination in Chile. The Andes are blinding in the midday sun outside my window. I’m excited for Atacama, but I’m going to take this opportunity of little distraction to finally get this post written, and will post when we arrive at San Pedro. 🙂

All about expectations

When we started our trip, China was high on Roman’s list, but not on mine. For some reason I didn’t have much emotional connection to the country. All I could picture were mammoth, concrete cities full of faceless, pushy people. I expected it would be intellectually interesting but nothing more.

We loved our time in southeast Asia, and the Buddhism-infused countries we visited and people we met were quick to melt my heart.

Everything changed when we got to Vietnam, a country that (we had read) was heavily influenced by its big neighbor to the north, China. A different religion, a different culture, different values and very different experiences for us after gentle Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. We couldn’t connect to the people or the place, and we left with a bad taste in our mouths, and with apprehension about our next destination – China. If Vietnam, influenced by Chinese culture, was like this, would China be similar? We braced ourselves prior to getting there – for people to be pushy or insensitive, for a higher crime rate than we’d experienced before Vietnam, for being unable to communicate, for massive, characterless cities.

Something I’ve been slowly realizing in my life, and definitely learning more and more during this big trip of ours, is that expectations are pretty ridiculous things. At least for me. Basically, nothing I have ever anticipated has come to pass the way I had pictured it.

When I worry about bad things possibly happening (which is more often I care to admit and definitely more often than is helpful), they consistently never happen.

(On the plus side, I can now comfort myself when my over active imagination comes up with awful scenarios – my projections are always wrong so this terrible thing I am involuntarily worrying about definitely won’t occur. Sometimes this application of logic actually kind of works. I’m viewing this as progress. ;-))

When I have a specific vision of something that I view as positive – birthday parties, life plans, a particular destination in our travels – I’m always wrong about that as well, and my specific expectations get in the way and ruin what could other wise be a lovely experience by me spending all my energy comparing reality to the wish list in my head.

I am getting better at simply banishing – or at least somewhat ignoring – the expectations I build up for myself. But back when we were leaving Vietnam for China, I was too caught up in the fear. Luckily for China, this was a case of negative expectations, and the country could only end up being better than my worst-case-scenario vision. Which is totally what happened.

I am still surprised and delighted by how much I loved China. The two big cities we visited – Beijing and Shanghai – didn’t excite me as much, but they were hardly the soulless, depressing, aggressive megapolises (megapolisi?? what’s the plural???) I had envisioned.

I was amazed at the friendliness and openness of the Chinese people we encountered. Language was not nearly as big of an issue as I expected. The country isn’t as set up for English-language tourists as southeast Asia, but it is certainly manageable to get around – at least to the places we visited. And even when people didn’t speak a word of English, they still were willing to find a way to communicate and help.

Challenges and awe

There were two things I hadn’t anticipated at all that stand out for me when I think back to our time in China.

The first is China’s astoundingly gorgeous nature. Time spent in some of those amazing landscapes was like balm to my soul. The rice terraces of Dazhai, the karst landscape of Yangshuo, the astounding Tiger Leaping Gorge, and don’t even get me started about Xinjiang (province of like a hundred million posts on this blog. :-P).

The second is the incredible variety of the “Chinese” people. The richness and diversity of its “minority” peoples is in my opinion one of the country’s greatest treasures. (I’ve mentioned before I’m not too keen on that word but it’s what is commonly used in China, in the guidebooks, basically everywhere and I’m not sure what a better term would be…)

Unfortunately, it’s a treasure that is being exploited and potentially destroyed. It’s a complex topic that I have no authority to expound on. People rightly have strong feelings about what’s happening to Tibetan, Uyghur and other cultures in China. I can’t speak to the politics and economics, as I don’t know enough. I want to careful not to paint the picture in black and white, casting China as the big, awful bad guy when I don’t know the full situation, and I can say from experience that so many of the Chinese people we met were SO lovely. Like America, there is a distinct difference between the normal people living there and the country’s official policies.

But I do know that it feels wrong and like something amazing is being lost. Whether it’s the old city area of Kashgar in Xinjiang that is literally being torn down, or the “Disneyfication” of places like Lijiang.

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Plenty of useless crap to buy in the touristy part of Yangshuo

Mass tourism for locals was something new for us in Asia. There are wealthy Indian tourists in India. But for the most part, the average Indian doesn’t have the opportunity to travel the country like we did. In southeast Asia, the vast majority of tourists are western. China is a whole different thing though.

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Have an “authentic” Tibetan experience and make sure you have the photo to prove it!

There is a middle class that is eager to go out and discover its country, and there is a huge industry that is ready to cater to and make money off of these people. Places that are of cultural and historic interest have been or are being transformed into ready-made, pre-packaged experiences that people can achieve a minimum amount of time. Tour buses, packed to the gills, shuttle from point of interest to point of interest, where the standard photos are snapped, cheap trinkets are purchased from people in traditional garb, a local specialty is consumed, and another item on the tourist to-do-list can be checked off before it’s back on the bus for the next stop.

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Sun glasses for sale along side prayer beads and sacred thangkas at the ancient Tibetan monastery outside Zhongdian

I can’t hate on people who are eager to explore their own country in a way that makes sense for them. But the plastic-feeling tourist spots we encountered do feel like simultaneous erosion and exploitation of culture and people. And I can’t help but find it tremendously tacky.

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No visit to Xi’an is complete without a photo along side authentic looking terra cotta warriors! (I actually got told off for taking this photo 🙂 )

My advice if you are traveling to China is to do your best to get beyond these places. In some cases, it’s as easy as simply walking a few blocks beyond the tourist areas, like in Yangshuo or Zhongdian. Glimpses of local, every-day life were among the most enjoyable and interesting things about our travels through China. Try to avoid places during peak tourist season. Take mass tourism with a grain of salt (at the same time as I disliked it I also marveled at it as an interesting phenomenon of current Chinese culture). And take comfort that some places seem at least to get the balance right. Pingyao, for example, is certainly about tourism but still managed to feel very genuine to me. And try to be an informed and aware visitor when possible.

So, that’s my mini-rant on mass tourism. 🙂

Random nerd stuff

I was still being ambitious and trying to read up about places’ histories when we went to China. I got through some of John Kay’s China: A History and found it accessible but I admit I had a tough time having enough context or willpower to keep track of place and people names. Ultimately, the book was simply too massive for me, at least to read while also traveling. After all, China’s history is massive.

If you are looking for an intro to Chinese history in more bite-sized packages, I can recommend Laszlo Montgomery’s “The China History Podcast”. It does exactly what it says on the box. Montgomery’s tone is delightfully sardonic (not about Chinese history; I suspect he has that attitude about life in general :-)), he seems to really know what he’s talking about and the podcasts are interesting and not overwhelming. And they’re a great way to pass time during long bus/train/plane rides.

Although I have already forgotten most of the Chinese I learned (but look! I can prove that I did learn something!!), especially that I am trying to learn Spanish at the moment, I am really glad we took classes. It wasn’t the most practical thing but it was fun to have at least a few words and some more insight into the language and culture. I would totally recommend taking a crash course, and can also strongly recommend Omeida, where we studied. The podcast “Chinese survival phrases” wasn’t bad for double checking pronunciation on those key sentences like asking for the bill, and I found this website useful when studying at Omeida as well to look up words and check pronunciation.

China in review

So, after tons of posts and even more time, I am actually getting round to wrapping up our time in China. To start, here is a post with the facts and figures and what not. 🙂

Note: The following dates and overview excludes the weeks we spent in Hong Kong. While technically a part of China, for me the city and our time there are separate entities from what we discovered during our travels in mainland China. In case you are unclear about the relationship between HK and China, as I was, here is a quick blurb from Wikipedia:

Under the principle of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong has a different political system from mainland China. Hong Kong’s independent judiciary functions under the common law framework. Hong Kong Basic Law, its constitutional document, which stipulates that Hong Kong shall have a “high degree of autonomy” in all matters except foreign relations and military defence, governs its political system.

So without further ado…

Our time in mainland China was just a bit short of two full months. 54 days to be exact.

Still a far cry from the nearly four months we spent in India, but the second longest consecutive amount of time we’ve traveled in a single country.

In those busy weeks, we made 18 stops in 16 different locations, visiting 7 different provinces/municipalities (municipalities of Beijing & Shanghai). Not bad – although there is PLENTY more to visit! 🙂 (From Wikipedia again, China “currently administers 33 such divisions, classified as 22 provinces, four municipalities, five autonomous regions and two special administrative regions.”)

I’ve put the markers in this map (thank you for the image!) by hand so they may not be entirely accurate, but this gives you an idea anyhow of the ground we’ve covered:

Check Roman’s Everlater page for more details and a significantly more accurate map! 🙂

I’ve also added the first update to my “travel tops”page in ages: check it out if you want recommendations or are just curious about my most favoritest places, hotels and food experiences in China. Sorry but you’ll have to scroll to the bottom of the page for the China section.

And last but not least, here is the final itinerary.

Sept 15 Kashgar, Xinjiang Seman Binguan Hotel
Sept 16 Karakul Lake, Xinjiang Yurt homestay
Sept 17 Tashkurgan, Xinjiang Pamir Hotel
Sept 18 Kashgar, Xinjiang Seman Binguan Hotel
Sept 19 Yarkant, Xinjiang Desert camping
Sept 20 Kashgar, Xinjiang Seman Binguan Hotel
Sept 22 Urumqi, Xinjiang Yilisha Hotel
Sept 24 Yangshuo, Guangxi Omeida Chinese Academy housing/ River View Hotel
Oct 15 Dazhai, Guangxi Wisdom Inn
Oct 18 Guilin, Guangxi Jinjiang Inn
Oct 19 Lijiang/Shuhe, Yunnan The Bruce Chalet
Oct 21 Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan Tea-Horse Guesthouse
Oct 22 Zhongdian, Yunnan N’s Kitchen & Guesthouse
Oct 24 Lijiang/Shuhe, Yunnan The Bruce Chalet
Oct 26 Beijing Airb’n’b studio apartment
Nov 3 Pingyao, Shanxi Yide Hotel
Nov 5 Xi’an, Shaanxi Xi’an Century Landscape Hotel
Nov 8 Shanghai Jinjiang Inn

Shanghai slacker

I’m so close to finishing my posts about China, I can practically taste it. Before I can finish up, there’s one final destination to share about: Shanghai.

It’s over nine months since my first post about China. Over seven since we were actually in Shanghai. More than half a year ago that we had this time in the country that unexpectedly delighted, amazed and enchanted me. And I’ve already written 60 posts about the place. (60!! God, I’m verbose!)

Our time there was jam packed with so many awesome things, and by the time we reached Shanghai – one last destination before our visa expired and we had to leave the country (we only had two full days in the city and we literally left China on the last day of our visa) – I think I’d run out of steam. And I fear I’m about to do the same here in this blog. There’s things I still want to capture here about China… The thing is when I try to write about Shanghai, I feel like there’s nothing to say.

Not because of Shanghai. But because I was so flat out tired and a bit sick when we were there. And because I’m sure those two days were not long enough to even begin to get a feel for this world-renowned city.

We managed to take in some of the major sights – the Bund, the French Concession, the Shanghai Museum – plus other bits and pieces. But how much I actually was able to absorb… Well, what ever I did absorb, it doesn’t feel like enough to justify a proper blog post.

So, I am so sorry Shanghai for pooping out on you once more. I am sure you are totally awesome and fascinating and I know you are unlike any place else we visited in China, but I will just have to wait to find out more about you when I have a bit more energy!

I CAN say that I loved the Shanghai Museum – especially for its beautiful clothing displays (maybe you’ll remember how they soothed my sensibilities after my fashion compass was set askew) – and here are a few photos just to give you a wee peek of the place.

The Terracotta Warriors

An astounding archeological discovery, the terracotta army outside of Xi’an is another one of China’s most popular tourist destinations, and one that we didn’t want to miss while we were in the country. On our second day in Xi’an, we hopped on a bus and headed out to the site to spend a day with the warriors of clay.

There’s plenty of information out there about the army so I won’t write much here, not being an expert on the subject. I found this clip on YouTube; it’s not amazing but it will give you a pretty good overview if you want some background info:

Killer expectations

I was really excited to see the army and I think I probably didn’t manage my expectations properly (like I was able to do for the Great Wall), because it wasn’t the best day for me.

Seeing the army for yourself IS amazing – the implications and sheer size, the craftsmanship, the glimpse into another era of life in a culture long gone – it can’t help but be impressive. But I was in the wrong headspace and had a tough time to not get distracted and annoyed by the tourism side of it.

We happened to be there when a lot of Chinese tour groups were also visiting. Despite being mindful of my surroundings and trying to stay out of the way, I found myself being constantly bumped into by people who weren’t looking where they were going.

Tour group crowds! Argh!

There was a lot of this sort of thing at displays so viewing everything we wanted to took a lot of time and patience; it was tough (for me at least) to just get immersed in the history and experience.

Tourists also had a chance to have their photo taken with replica warriors…

We decided to not get a tour guide because we wanted to view things at our own pace and in our own way. We picked up an audio guide instead. The museum signage is not the clearest and we found the audio guide provided a lot of detailed facts about specific things we looked at – this is the sort of paint used on this piece or this is how high this item is – but not a lot of context and no story, which is what we had been hoping for. I’m not sure if a human guide would have been better, but I can safely advise skipping the audio guide if you are considering it.

Get over it!

I am confident though, that with the right attitude and a bit more background information, visiting the terracotta army can be a mind-blowing experience. Even though I was annoyed for a lot of the time we were there, I’m still 100% glad that we went, and, removing my own limiting emotions from the memories of it, I have to say that it is pretty darn amazing.

From the traditional beliefs about the afterlife, to the amount of work that went into constructing an army of that size, to how darn old it is, to the fact that it was discovered at all, the whole thing is fascinating and just about miraculous. What I loved the most though was taking in the unique faces of each statue. The details of each individual figure and the specific expressions on their faces were enthralling.

So, without further ado, here are the terracotta warriors. 🙂

Xi’an: Food in the streets and one very special Mosque

Our time in Buenos Aires is rapidly drawing to a close. We’ve been busy with lovely things and practical things. Today is more of the same – yoga and lunch with some new friends from here then more shopping for supplies, research and packing are on the roster.

In terms of posts on this blog I’m getting close to the end of our time in China too, so I’ll press on with the catch up! 🙂 By the way, if you ever are confused by all my bouncing around time and space on this blog and want to check where we were when, Roman’s Everlater page is accurate and up-to-date plus the map is pretty nifty if you ask me. 🙂

So, back to China….

More than just the warriors

We left Pingyao for Xi’an. The lovely staff at the Yide Hotel made arrangements for us, booking the bus ticket, getting us to the bus stop along the highway (the cabbie even waited for us to make sure we got onto the right bus), and even writing out the address of our next destination in Chinese characters for our future cab driver’s reference. Note – if you’re traveling in China it’s not a bad idea to keep a look out for nice people who will do this sort of thing for you; most cab drivers we encountered don’t speak or read a lick of English. The bus ride was easy enough and we arrived at the bus station that evening.

Xi’an is the access point to the iconic Terracotta Warriors, and that of course is why we were there. But before we would come face to face with that silent army, we had a bit of time to poke around the city itself.

Xi’an was quite a change to quaint and quiet Pingyao. It too is a walled city with plenty of centuries old history. But that’s where the similarities end.

The city wall, all lit up at night

Xi’an is a bustling metropolis, and though the walls are old, majestic and mighty, they are surrounded by rivers of traffic, fast food joints, flashing LCD screens and plenty of other signs of modernity. The city within the walls – or what we saw of it – is mostly very modern, with plenty of shopping malls and things like McDonalds and Starbucks right next to the most touristy bit around the central Bell and Drum towers.

The drum tower

The Muslim quarter

The part that we found the most interesting was the quieter Muslim quarter. Unlike the Muslims in Xinjiang, the community in Xi’an is ethnically Chinese, which was interesting to see. From Lonely Planet: “The narrow lanes are full of butcher shops, sesame-oil factories, smaller mosques hidden behind enormous wooden doors, men in white skullcaps and women with their heads covered in coloured scarves. It’s a great place to wander…”

Lonely Planet’s got it exactly right; it was a fascinating place to poke around – although you might need to harden your stomach a bit. We happened to be there around a religious festival, and the butchers were hard at work that day preparing sheep for feasts. Kinda gross.

Lots of cooking in the street in the Muslim quarter. It’s not the best picture but I love this out door stove. The flame was shooting out of the exhaust pipe like crazy! 🙂

Hot stuff!

Poor sheep!

Anyone for feet?

Far more serene was the Great Mosque. An amazing building and one of the largest mosques in China and probably founded in the 8th century, it is an awesome blend of Islamic and traditional Chinese architecture. A minaret that looks like a pagoda, Chinese-style tiled roofs and elegant Arabic calligraphy – it was beautiful and an incredible place to visit.

Pingyao: the grey city

I don’t know what Pingyao is like in warm, sunny weather, or during the peak tourist season. If you go to visit it perhaps you will end up with a very different impression.

I, however, got to know it over two and a half cool, misty November days, when visitors seemed to congregate only around the main sights, and most of the streets we wandered were peopled by handfuls of locals going peacefully about their daily business. In my memory, it exists as a quiet place, embraced doubly: first by the thick stone walls (ten meters high!!) that circle and keep watch over the city, and secondly by the seemingly ever-present clouds and mists that hang low over the roofs and slink down the streets, muffling sound, muting light, softening the edges off of everything.

All is rock and fog, grey brick and dark wood, with only sporadic bursts of red lanterns, bright vegetable stands or colorful tiles along temple roofs to remind you that you haven’t somehow landed in an old black and white movie.

To me the shades of the past centuries linger in this place like so much mist. The city is worn, in the best possible way – frayed to softness, smoothness, with traces everywhere of the hands, the work, the people, the times that wore away at this grey stone city. Spend a little time in Pingyao and you can’t help but wonder about all the lives and centuries the city has seen, about the gentle ghosts of the past that linger there today.

The travel-type details


We took an overnight train from Beijing (thanks to Roman, who had to enlist the help of a friendly English-speaking hairdresser to help him book our tickets) to get there. It was an easy trip since we both were able to sleep on the train (more details about the train on Roman’s Everlater if you want to know more).

We’d sprung for a nicer hotel, which sent a driver to pick us up from our early morning drop off at the train station. A short ride brought us through the city gates and around some twists and turns to the front gate of the Yide Hotel. I loved – LOVED – staying here. It’s my favorite hotel in China after the Wisdom Inn.

I missed taking any photos of our room, but here is courtyard and a view of the door to our room

The hotel is a beautifully renovated courtyard house, originally built in 1736 – 40 years before the America declared its independence! I didn’t manage to get any photos of our room, but it provided a nice marriage of tradition and comfort, plus it was toasty warm and wonderfully clean so I was a happy camper.

The hotel courtyard lit by lanterns at night – silent, dark, and oh so atmospheric!


Pingyao is not that big and it’s possible to walk to all of its sights. We took a nice stroll one day on the city wall. I mentioned this in the last post, but it’s worth repeating: the wall was built around 1370. This is some seriously ancient architecture. Only a small portion has been rebuilt; most of it is still original, which is just amazing to think about. Deep grooves in the stone road leading into the city’s Lower West gate were created by years upon years’ worth of carts traveling along the path. Mind blowing.

The city’s wall (left) is higher than most its buildings

Look ma, no guard rails! Roman goofing around..

We had the wall nearly entirely to ourselves for most of the time and being ten meters up gave a fantastic vantage point to take in the monochromatic mosaic of Pingyao’s tiled roofs and stone streets. I also got a kick out of the fact that there were no guard rails what so ever on the inward-facing wall. You know you’re not in America anymore when…. 😉

We visited many of the city’s Confucian Temples. Unlike the Buddhist temples in southeast Asia, I found it consistently tough to connect to any of the Confucian Temples we visited. They certainly are dramatic and impressive, with all their dark wood, dim rooms, swirling incense and fantastical statues. For me, like Taoist temples, they tend to waver between intriguingly foreign/exotic and off-puttingly kitsch/creepy. I enjoyed these temples more than some of the Taoist ones we visited in Vietnam, but the vibe doesn’t melt my heart, like some of the Buddhist temples we’ve been able to visit. Still, it was awesome to see these living spaces of history – the temples are still actively used by the community today and many of them are insanely old.

I did love visiting the Rishengchang Financial House Museum though. China’s first ever draft bank (established in a dye shop in 1823) is now an awesome little museum that gives an interesting glimpse into life for its employees during the 1800s and the beginnings of banking in the country. Pingyao played a major role as a banking center along the Silk Road. Having seen bits of the Silk Road in Xinjiang (which felt geographically so very far away to us at that point, and we’d gotten there and back by the modern day convenience of air travel) it was astounding to think of exotic goods traveling all that way having an impact on and being affected by the efficient bankers of this orderly little walled city.

THE Wall

Like Beijing and the Forbidden City, Paris and the Eiffel Tower, Egypt and the Pyramids, one can NOT go to China without visiting the Great Wall. It would simply be touristically, possibly even morally, wrong.

We waited patiently in Beijing for the weather and my cold to improve so that we could go to the Wall. In the end, neither the fog nor my congestion lifted, and we just had to go anyway. Happily, unlike the city, our experience of the Great Wall was only enhanced by the murky autumn weather.

Knowing just how famous the Wall is, how essential a tick it is on the China-tourist to-do-list, I had braced myself for pushy vendors, obnoxious crowds, and tour group leaders waving flags or umbrellas in the air. We did take the precaution of going to the Mutianyu section of the wall, rather than Badaling, which is THE most visited spot on the entire wall.

Mutianyu is still relatively close to Beijing and also relatively easy to get to. (We took a bus from Beijing, about an hour’s drive, and then hired a lovely female cab driver to take us to the wall and back from the bus terminal) It’s definitely set up to receive tourists; I understand that some sections of the Wall further out from Beijing are less restored and can actually get pretty desolate. I’m sure it must be beautiful but I was definitely not up for a whole day of vigorous hiking at that point. We’ll simply have to go back. 😉

As it was with me still being sick, we only did a half day visit. It was better than nothing and I’m so glad we did even that, because I absolutely loved the wall. The bad weather worked in our favor; although the entrance leading up to the wall sure felt touristy, with tons of souvenir stands selling all sorts of useless junk, all of this faded away quickly enough and the up on the Wall itself there were hardly any people.

On the way up to the wall – fog, fog and more fog

The fog that had felt so oppressive in the city only shrouded the Wall and surrounding hills in an atmosphere that was both peaceful and evocative. It was so quiet, and any scenery beyond nearby wooded hills was obscured by the mist. An occasional magpie would glide from tree to tree across the valley, but aside from that, all was still, and it was easy to forget time completely and imagine that we’d been transported back across the centuries to the time when the Wall was young and an active part of the areas defenses against Mongol armies. It’s easy to think a wall is a wall is a wall, but I was just blown away by the sheer size and history of the thing, and by all that it implied – the ingenuity and sacrifices required to create it, the realities of the world into which it was built, the number of centuries it has silently witnessed. It was – it is – simply incredible.

Our first glimpse of the Wall

There’s plenty of info out there about the Wall, but here are some fun facts you may not know about that I’ve purloined from the interwebs (source):

  • That the Great Wall is a single, continuous wall built all at once is a myth. In reality, the wall is a discontinuous network of wall segments built by various dynasties to protect China’s northern boundary.


  • During its construction, the Great Wall was called “the longest cemetery on earth” because so many people died building it. Reportedly, it cost the lives of more than one million people.
  • The Great Wall of China is also known as the wanli changcheng or Long Wall of 10,000 Li (a li is a measure of distance, approximately 1/3 of a mile). The main wall is around 2,145 miles (3,460 km) long with an extra 1,770 miles (2,860 km) of branches and spurs.

Inside one of the watch towers


  • The Great Wall of China is the longest man-made structure in the world.
  • The length of all Chinese defense walls built over the last 2,000 years is approximately 31,070 miles (50,000 km). Earth’s circumference is 24,854 miles (40,000 km).


  • Because the Great Wall was discontinuous, Mongol invaders led by Genghis Khan (“universal ruler”) had no problem going around the wall and they subsequently conquered most of northern China between A.D. 1211 and 1223. They ruled all of China until 1368 when the Ming defeated the Mongols.


  • Contrary to common belief, the Great Wall of China cannot be seen from the moon without aid. This pervasive myth seems to have started in 1893 in the American-published magazine The Century and then resurfaced in 1932 when Robert Ripley of Ripley’s Believe it Or Not claimed the Great Wall could be seen from the moon—even though space flight was decades away. It is questionable whether the Great Wall can be seen from a close orbit with the unaided eye.
  • It is common to hear that the mortar used to bind the stones was made from human bones or that men are buried within the Great Wall to make it stronger. However, the mortar was actually made from rice flour—and no bones, human or otherwise, have ever been found in any of the Great Wall’s walls.
  • During the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-78), the Great Wall was seen as sign of despotism, and people were encouraged to take bricks from it to use in their farms or homes.