A universal guide for China studies
Chinese History - The Great Wall
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The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China (Wanli Changcheng 萬里長城; literally "Ten Thousand Leagues Long Fortification") is one of the most outstanding buildings of mankind, sometimes called the eight world wonder and said to be the only human work that can be seen the moon (which is, of course, not true).
The part of the Great Wall we can admire today north of Beijing, are the reconstructed remnants of the Ming Dynasty wall. But this wall is only the last wall-fortification in a long tradition of wall building.
The oldest fortification walls of China were erected as an instrument of defense between the kingdoms of the Warring States period the 5th to the 3rd century BC, that means, to defend Chinese against Chinese, not against "barbarians", like later. Today, it is possible to reconstruct five of these inner-China walls: the walls of Qi 齊 (modern Shandong), Chu 楚 (modern Hubei), Qin 秦 (modern Shaanxi), Yan 燕 (modern Hebei), Zhao 趙 (modern Shanxi), and Wei 魏 (modern Henan).
Very famous is the Great Wall built by the First Emperor of Qin in 215 BC who was told by a magician that barbarians the north would be able to attack his empire. The work to throw back the "barbarians" and to erect a defensive wall was undertaken by his general Meng Tian 蒙恬. Not much is left of this wall (we know a part made unhewn stones near Baotou 包頭/Inner Mongolia), but we are able to trace back the course of his wall Lintao 臨洮/Gansu to the Liaodong Peninsula 遼東/Liaoning that partially used older walls, especially in the east. Thousands of slaves and forced corvée workers are said to have died during the erection of the Qin wall - but we can imagine that the situation during the following dynasties was not very different.
The first very important walls are that of the Han Dynasty. The offensive foreign politics of Emperor Han Wudi lead to the opening of the "western corridor" to Inner Asia and the begin of an intense trade with the Central Asian countries. A traveller named Zhang Qian 張騫 was the first Chinese to discover the importance of these Inner Asian kingdoms. The trade route to the west is known as the Silkroad. Nomad tribes north of the Chinese empire, in modern Mongolia, steadily attacked the towns and market places of the border region. To prevent the nomad tribes their raids on Chinese soil, the Chinese government developed two kinds of political measures: tributary presents (heqin 和親) like silk, alcohol, later porcelain and tea, or even princesses, to appease the martial tribes; the second method was the offensive war undertaken by Emperor Han Wudi. His generals destroyed the mighty chieftain of the Xiongnu 匈奴 tribes, advanced into new territory and had erected defensive fortification walls in the years of 127 BC and 105 BC. These walls were very simply constructed with the main materials tamped loam, and straw. The forts along the wall (the most important Han Dynasty fort is the Yumenguan Fort 玉門關../Eidola/symrelblack.JPG" width="25" height="28" border="0">(> Division)
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