Who built the Great Wall of China?

Yes, I know that there is not a singular Great Wall, but a series of walls and other defenses that were built over the course of several dynasties. What I’m looking for is who did the labor? I ask because in the plant where I’m currently working there’s one of those motivational posters, which shows the Great Wall, and is titled “Teamwork”, with a little aphorism underneath that I don’t remember. I’d always assumed that most of the work for this was done at least by peasants who had no choice, if not by persons who could more or less be considered slaves by modern standards.

I don’t think any records were kept of who was drafted or forced to work on the wall and what the mortality rate was, but it was certainly largely a conscripted force. Local peasants and laborers formed the majority of the workforce. In general they rotated these people in and out to allow them to allow the fields and crops to be taken care of, though during a few times of emergency - I forget exactly which sections and what historical eras - it was literally all human hands within N miles on deck, even women and children. Enlisted soldiers were pressed into wall duty too, as well as people sentenced to hard labor for various crimes. I would assume the criminals were pressed harder than soldiers, and peasants not treated much better than an expendable and renewable labor pool. [Note: this is based on my memory of the guide books of the Great Wall from a tour from about 20 years ago.]

So if you saw this poster showing the Great Wall and quoting Lao-Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”… Maybe you should riposte by getting this poster showing the Egyptian Pyramids and putting it up alongisde of it :slight_smile:

The local peasants may not have objected that much to working on the Great Wall (assuming they still had some time to work in their fields). After all, when it was done, they would be the people protected from invaders.

Julia Lovell, in The Great Wall, discusses some of the legends associated with wall-building:

I agree, the Great Wall of China is a spectacularly innappropriate subject for a motivational poster. Unless, perhaps, you’re seeking to persuade managers to be utterly heedless of the usefulness and well-being of their employees.

And the tales don’t exaggerate for once. Evidence of hundreds of thousands of dead laborers has been found at the foot of the Great Wall.

would feeding a daughter “dried meat” be a good thing or a bad thing? Does the poem imply that people should stop investing in raising children completely or that they should concentrate on raising girls?