The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is truly one of the greatest architectural achievements in recorded history. The longest structure ever built, it is about 6,700 kilometers (4,163 miles) long and made entirely by hand. This wall is said to be visible from the moon. It crosses Northern China, from the East coast to Central China (Karls, 1). This massive wall is not only one of the ancient wonders of the world, but it also has been the inspiration of many writers and artists. With a history of more than 2,000 years, some of the sections of the Great Wall are now in ruins or even entirely disappeared. However, it is still one of the most appealing attractions all around the world, because of its architectural greatness and historical significance.
The Great Wall’s construction began in 221 BC under the emperor Meng Tien, of the Chin Dynasty (Twitchett, 2). Continual invasions and wars from the barbarians to the North drove the emperor to order its construction to protect the newly unified China. It started at Lintao and extended to Liaotung, reaching a distance of more than 10,000 Li. After crossing the Yellow River, it wound northward, touching the Yang Mountains (Twitchett, 2). Although the wall is considered to be well under 10,000 Li (one Li is approximately a third of a mile) it was truly an amazing accomplishment (Twitchett, 2).
Meng Tien employed some 300,000 men in the creation of the original section of the wall. The building of such a massive wall would definitely be a huge task. A wall that stretches through the wilderness is not easily accessed by supply lines, unlike a highway that creates its own supply line (Delahoye, 3). There was also a massive loss of lives during the construction of the wall, due to widespread disease and injury (Delahoye, 3). In fact it is an Ancient Chinese myth, that each stone in the wall stands for a life lost in the wall’s construction (Delahoye, 3). It is recorded that Meng Tien’s section of the wall took only ten years to build, but it is believed that it actually took a substantially greater amount of time (Delahoye, 3). After Meng Tien’s original construction the wall was far from completed. Other walls were added to and encompassed within The Great Wall. The last major work on the wall was completed during the Ming Dynasty around 1500 (Delahoye, 3). The Great Wall extends around 1,500 miles in an east-west direction. It travels through four provinces (Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Gansu) beginning in northern Hebei and ending in the northwest Gansu province (Delahoye, 3).
The Great Wall is built of many different materials, from granite blocks to tamped earth (Ledoux, 4). These materials ranging from 15 to 50 feet high with a base width between 15 and 30 feet, the wall had guard towers spread along the entire length of the wall (Ledoux, 4). The Great Wall of China was built by stacking mud or clay bricks one by one on top of each other. The brick was first produced in a sun-dried form at least 6,000 years ago, and is the prototype of a wide range of clay building products used today (Ledoux, 4). It is the small building unit in the form of a rectangular block, formed from clay, shale, or other mixtures and burned in a oven, to produce strength, hardness, and heat resistance (Ledoux, 4). The original concept of ancient brick-makers was that the unit should not be bigger than what one man could easily handle (Ledoux, 4).
To understand the Great Wall it is necessary to know the many components of the wall, and their purposes. The Great Wall was renovated from time to time after the Qin Dynasty. A major renovation started with the founding of the Ming Dynasty in 1368, and took 200 years to complete (Karls, 1). The wall seen today is almost exactly the result of this effort. With a total length of over 6,000 kilometers, it extends to the Jiayu Pass in Gansu Province, and in the west to the mouth of the Yalu River in the Liaoning Province in the east (Karls, 1). What lies north of Beijing is but a small section of it (Karls). The Badaling section of the Great Wall along the mountains in the northwest of Beijing was built at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century (Karls, 1). Being 7.8 meters high and 5.8 meters wide at the top on the average, it has battle forts at important points, including the corners (Karls, 1). Located 10 kilometers south of the Badaling section of the Great Wall, was a built in 18.5 kilometer long valley (Karls, 1). The pass has always been an important gateway northwest of Beijing. Cloud Terrace, built in 1345, was originally the base over looking the main road of the town pass (Karls, 1). The arched gate of the terrace and the walls inside the arch are decorated with carvings of elephants, lions, birds, and flowers (Karls, 1). Also included are the heavenly kings as well as charms in six languages (Karls, 1). The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, 70 kilometers northeast of Beijing, is linked to the Gubeikou section on the east and the Badaling section on the west (Karls, 1). The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall was used for watching and shooting at the invading enemy (Karls, 1). Some of the battle forts on the wall are as close as 50 meters apart. It is one of the best sections of the Great Wall (Karls, 1). The Jinshanling division of the Great Wall, like the Simatai division, belongs to the Gubeikou section of the huge defense barrier. The walls in the Jinshanling division of the Great Wall are built along the ridge of a mountain, where the soldiers can resist the invading enemy by taking advantage of the high terrain (Karls, 1). Located to the east of Jinshanling, the Simatai division of the Great Wall is 3,000 meters long and has 35 battle forts (Karls, 1). The wall rises and falls with the mountain ridge, while the battle forts are located high up the hills. Then there is the Beakon Tower. From the Beakon Tower alarms were raised by means of smoke signals, at night by fire (Karls, 1). Smoke was produced by burning a mixture of wolf dung, sulfur and saltpeter (Karls, 1). Shots were fired at the same time. Thus an alarm could be relayed from over 500 kilometers within just a few hours.
As we all know the Great Wall was slowly built by sections, but now today exists as one wall. This was possible because the Qin Dynasty was finally able to unite the split up sections of the walls (Forbes, 5). The emperor had extravagant plans for the empire, and he used forced labor to accomplish them. Gangs of Chinese peasants were forced to dig canals, and build roads. The one thing however, the Qin Dynasty thought to be especially important was to create a better barrier to the north (Muyaka, 6). Earlier rulers had built walls to prevent attacks by nomadic barbarians. First the Emperor ordered that those walls to be connected, and complete the entire wall as one (Forbes, 5). Over the years, some 300,000 peasants died before the work was done (Forbes, 5). Today the Great Wall of China stands as a monument to Qins ambition, and to the peasants who carried out their emperors wishes (Forbes, 5). In 210 B.C. Qin died, and soon after the dynasty itself came to an end. Even so, the rule of the Qin brought lasting changes. The most influential changes were that of the wall. For it still stands today, finished, and a
constant reminder to all, of the once and mighty emperor (Muyaka, 6).
The Great Wall was not only used for defense purposes. I read that it was used as a barrier to isolate China, during its period of Isolationism (Kalaman, 7). The Great Wall not only gave a physical barrier, but it also showed that the Chinese did not really want trade with the rest of the world (Kalman, 7). In todays day and age The Great Wall of China is no longer used to fight off armed soldiers, but it is used more commonly now as a tourist attraction Unknown, 8). Tourists from all over the world come to see the Great Wall, and take photos. It is widely known throughout China for other reasons as well. The Chinese people have used the Great Wall of China in many of their myths and legends (Unknown, 8). It is said that the Great Wall actually has a sleeping dragon inside, and it is customary in China if new land is to be plotted that a holy man check it out first so as not to have the new building disrupt the sleeping dragon (Kalman, 7). It has also been used for countless poems. One of the other legends of the wall is that when a man was working on the wall and he became fatigued, a few of the guards buried him alive into the wall. When the wife of the man did not come back after the construction
was completed she went to the capital to find him. After she had heard what happened the woman went into remorse, and became very depressed. It was then that the wall opened up and revealed to the woman the body of her departed husband (Unknown, 8). That is an oldwives tale that has been passed down throughout the years, but there is some truth to it. For it was said, and evidence has been found, that many people were buried in the wall if the were unable to work. One new and interesting thing I discover during researching was the China Great Wall Academy. What they did was examine 101 sections of the wall in different provinces, and reported that less than 30 % remains in good condition (Unknown, 8). The factors in its destruction were things such as nature and mankind (Unknown, 8). After that study, the Academy called for greater protection of the wall. The must keep it maintained because it is Chinas main tourist attractions, it has been said, the man who doesnt visit the wall, has never been to China. (Unknown, 8)
The Great Wall of China is a masterpiece in a whole. Even though it did take hundreds upon thousands human lives to build. It is a true symbol of China for what it did stand for, and also what it stands for now. Chinas past was full of change, but Chinas future will have the wall to look back upon as a constant reminder. The Great Wall of China is indeed a great architectural achievement for man, but what it has done to lives of the Chinese people the magnitude cannot possibly be measured in the wall itself. The Wall of China is one of the largest creations ever built, but it still has many secrets that remain unknown and unanswered.
Was not sure what type of citations you wanted, so I did them the way my other history teacher had us do them. The name is the authors last name and the number represents the source number on my bibliography.
THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
By: Jeff Beland
Due Date: April 26, 2004
Class: History 162 Section 1
Professor: T. Teng
Assignment: Formal Paper
1.Karls, Robert. 10,000-li Great Wall. New York, Crabtree Publishing Company, 1958.
2.Twitchett, Denis and Loewe, Michael. The Cambridge History of China: Volume 1. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, England, 1986; 61- 63.
3.Delahoye, H.. Drege, J.P. Wilson, Dick. Zewen, Lou. The Great Wall. New York: Warwick Press, 1987.
4.Ledoux, Trish. Ancient Civilizations: San Francisco, Mixx publishers, 1984.
5.Forbes, Geraldine. Asian Studies. New York, Mifflin Company, 1993.
6.Muyaka, Ho Chin, Huang River: New York, Penguin Publishers, 1994.
7. Kalman, Bobbie. China the Land. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, 1989.