[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 12 March, 2004, 11:55 GMT
China ends Great Wall space myth
Yang Liwei
China's first man in space, Yang Liwei, could not see the wall
China is changing official thinking about a common misconception relating to its best-known ancient site.

For decades, elementary schoolbooks have maintained that the Great Wall of China could be seen from space - but now the books are being rewritten.

The Wall, China now admits, cannot in fact be seen from the heavens - a fact proved by China's own astronaut Yang Liwei, who became the country's first person in space last year.

He said he was unable to see the ancient structure when he orbited the Earth for 21.5 hours in his spacecraft Shenzhou V.

His testimony has prompted a change of policy at China's Ministry of Education.

Wall, Nasa
The Wall is visible in shuttle radar images (orange stripe)
An unnamed official was quoted in the Beijing Times as saying the textbook publisher had been asked to remove the relevant passages.

"Having this falsehood printed in our elementary school textbooks is probably the main cause of the misconception being so widely spread," the paper said.

The earliest known stages of the Wall were built in the 5th Century BC, but not linked and extended until the Qin Dynasty between 221-206 BC.

Much of the remaining sections seen today were largely rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

The Wall was built as a defence against invasions from the north and is estimated to have stretched 6,700km from east to west.

China protects its greatest asset
04 Feb 04  |  Asia-Pacific
China imposes Great Wall ban
30 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
China uncovers lost part of Wall
09 Oct 02  |  Asia-Pacific
China's Great Wall 'even longer'
22 Feb 01  |  Asia-Pacific

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific