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Labor Force

of building the Great Wall

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The labor force of building of the Great Wall is mainly derived from the following sources as we learn from Chinese literature:

Garrison force is the main force. Qin Shi Huang (the first emperor of Qin Dynasty) dispatched senior general Meng Tian to construct the Great Wall with a force of 300,000 men after defeating the Xiong Nu. It took nine years to complete the project.

Conscripted laborers:In 555 A.D. or the sixth reigning year of Tian Bao, Northern Qi Dynasty as many as 1,800,000 laborers were conscripted to repair a 450 km-long Great Wall from Xiakou Pass, Youzhou (now Nankou Pass, Juyongguan Pass, Beijing) to HengZhou(now Datong, Shanxi province).

Convicts and persons sentenced to exile:In Qin and Han dynasties a special form of punishment was meted out to persons (convicted of crime) to build the Great Wall. PeiYin, who wrote commentaries on "Shi Ji" or Record of the Historian quotes Ru Chun assaying that persons whose hair were shaved off and wore iron rings on neck were sent to build the Great Wall. These men had to watch over invading troops by day and build the Great Wall by night. The punishment lasted four years.

Other forms of labor service set up under different names.

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