Did Keno Really Build the Great Wall of China?

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/ published 6 months ago

Did Keno Really Build the Great Wall of China?

According to a legend, a ruler in Ancient China invented the game of Keno, and used the money to fund the Great Wall of China

One of the funniest and most interesting conspiracy theories is that the Great Wall of China was actually built thanks to a gambling game. Yes, we’ve all heard about the Great Wall of China, the one landmark on Earth that is visible from space. There are some who believe that the entire 5,500 mile stretch was built mostly from cash derived from Keno. The game of Keno was invented in China between 205 and 187 BC. But is there any truth to the theory?

What is Keno?

Keno is a gambling game played at modern casinos, but is also often offered as a game in some lotteries. Players wager by choosing numbers ranging from 1 through 80. After all the players make their wagers, 20 numbers are randomly drawn. Each casino set its own series of payouts, and the player is paid based on how many numbers were chosen, the number of matches out of those chosen numbers, and the wager. There are a number of keno “paytables”, or payments specifically designed by the casino. Usually there is a larger house edge than other games in that casino. The house edge can range between 4 and 35 percent.



All accounts points that the game was invented in China. Legend has it that the invention of the game saved an ancient city in time of war. Then, the widespread popularity helped raise funds for the Great Wall of China. In modern China, the idea of using lotteries to fund a public institution was not accepted before the late 19th century.

There are no documents for a Chinese lottery before 1847 when the Portuguese government of Macao granted a license to lottery operators.

In Ancient China, the legend is that players played the game using sheets printed Chinese characters, often usually only the first 80 characters of the Thousand Character Classic. Eventually, Chinese immigrants introduced the game of keno to the West world when they sailed across the Pacific Ocean and helped building the First Transcontinental Railroad in the 19th century.

At the beginning, Keno was known as “boc hop bu” and “pick-apu” in the Western World. By 1866, the popularity of the game made it a common gambling game in Houston, Texas, under the name Keno.

The Theory

Whether or not the theory that the Great Wall of China was build thanks to Keno, the fact of the matter is both have a long history that has surpassed the ravishes of time. The Wall still stands, and while Keno has been changed through the years, the game is still popular among lotteries and casinos.

According to the legend, the ruler of the Han Dynasty, Cheung Leung, found himself tied up in a difficult war, and no funds. The war depleted the city’s funds and resources. He reached the end of his limits, and could not tax the city’s residents any more than he already had. Leung had no way of raising funds to end the war.

So, he invented a new game called Ken, a lottery-type game. The game became widely popular, and helped Leung end the war. The story continues that the same method was used later, when funds ran out while building the Great Wall of China. Is it true? Well, let’s leave it to our imagination.

But it is true that later dynasties, including the Han Dynasty, built newer and renovated of the Great Wall of China. Keno could have played a role in that, or might have not.

Great Wall of China Fast Facts

It seems such an amazing bit of trivia that the Great Wall was built thanks to a game of keno. Such a bg wall funded by such a little game? But with that in mind, let’s check some other trivia regarding the Great Wall of China.



- While the wall cannot be seen with a naked eye from space, it can be seen with aid

- The Qin Dynasty (221-207BC) used glutinous rice flour to make the binding material to bind the bricks

- The sections of the Wall you see on most pictures were built by the Ming Dynasty. It was the last part of the wall that was built and features many tall watch-towers

- During the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, many bricks were taken away to use in building homes, farms, or reservoirs

- In some areas, the Great Wall is wide enough and you are able to drive a car over it

- The most popular legend is the one of Men Jiangnu’s Bitter Weeping, whose husband died building the wall, and her weeping was so bitter, that a section collapsed, revealing her husband’s bones

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