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Interpreting the Evidence

Great Wall of China, 1932

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    The Great Depression and WW II (1929 - 1945)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Great Wall of China, 1932 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A section of the Great Wall of China near the Nankow Pass, 1932.
Historical Context
The Great Wall of China is made from bricks, rocks, and dirt.  It started as separate walls that were built during the Shang and Zhou Dynasties to protect one section of China from another.  Under Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the walls were united to help defend China from the Huns.  Thousands of people worked on the Great Wall.  If workers got hurt or complained, they could be buried alive.  Some of those who died were buried inside the wall itself.      
The Great Wall runs along northern China from its east coast to the central part.  The wall is approximately fifteen to thirty feet thick, twenty-five feet high, and was originally over 3,000 miles long.  Every 100 yards a signal tower was built.  Fires were lit in these towers to signal attacks.  During the Ming Dynasty, the wall was increased to 4,000 miles long.  It is one of the largest structures on earth and can be seen from the Earth’s orbit.
Essential Question
How does geography influence the development of a society?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the role of geography in the building of this wall.
Historical Challenges
What other countries built structures for defense?