A Wall for De­fence

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS -

Sev­eral sec­tions of the Great Wall were built and re­in­forced in Bei­jing for the pur­pose of de­fence, in­clud­ing sec­tions of Badal­ing, Mu­tianyu, Si­matai, Jiankou and Juy­ong­guan as well as Huanghuacheng Lake­side Great Wall. Those sec­tions of the Great Wall re­main mag­nif­i­cent even though they have wit­nessed changes through­out his­tory. They can re­flect Chi­nese peo­ple's wis­dom and dili­gence in creat­ing his­tory.

Lengthy and In­ter­mit­tent Con­struc­tion

The Great Wall's his­tory rep­re­sents the his­tory of the Chi­nese na­tion to some ex­tent and its con­struc­tion dates to the 9th cen­tury BC, the West­ern Zhou Dy­nasty (11th cen­tury–771 BC). In 221 BC, Qin Shi Huang (259–210 BC), China's first em­peror, founded the Qin Dy­nasty (221–206 BC), the first uni­fied feu­dal­ist dy­nasty in the his­tory of China, who then fo­cused on en­hanc­ing the bor­der de­fence in or­der to con­sol­i­date uni­fi­ca­tion of the coun­try, de­velop pro­duc­tion and sta­bilise civil­ian life.

He or­dered to de­mol­ish walls and moats left by vas­sal states in the War­ring States Pe­riod and dis­patched Gen­eral Meng­tian (circa 259–210 BC) to lead 300,000 peo­ple to build the Great Wall. His move aimed to de­fend the Qin Dy­nasty from ag­gres­sion by the Xiongnu, a mil­i­tant eth­nic mi­nor­ity in north­ern China. Meng spent about 10 years build­ing an over-5,000-kilo­me­tre length of the Great Wall stretch­ing from Lintao, Gansu in the west to Liaodong Pre­fec­ture (to­day's Liaon­ing Prov­ince) in the east.

In 206 BC, the Qin Dy­nasty was over­thrown and the West­ern Han Dy­nasty (206 BC–AD 24) came to power. After­wards, Em­peror Wu (157–87 BC) of the West­ern Han Dy­nasty re­paired and ex­panded the Great Wall of the Qin Dy­nasty.

In 1368, the Ming Dy­nasty (1368–1644) was es­tab­lished and con­struc­tion and re­pair of the Great Wall be­came a reg­u­lar duty. It took over 20 years to build the last sec­tion of the Great Wall, stretch­ing from the banks of the Yalu River in Liaon­ing Prov­ince to the Ji­ayu Pass in Gansu Prov­ince. It re­mains as the ex­ist­ing Great Wall.

Af­ter un­der­go­ing great changes in his­tory, the Great Wall is still mag­nif­i­cent and rel­a­tively well pre­served. In June 2012, ac­cord­ing to the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cul­tural Her­itage, the to­tal length of all great walls built in dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods is 21,196.18 kilo­me­tres.

There are a to­tal of 43,721 re­mains of the Great Wall from the Spring and Au­tumn and War­ring States pe­ri­ods, Qin, Han (206 BC–AD 220), South­ern and North­ern Dynasties (AD 429–581), Sui (AD 581–618), Tang (618–907), Five Dynasties and Ten King­doms (AD 907– 960), Song (AD 960–1279), Liao (916–1125), Jin (1115–1234), Ming and Qing.

A Sig­nif­i­cant Role in De­fence

The Great Wall con­tain­ing walls, ter­races, tow­ers and trenches, con­sti­tutes a com­plete de­fence sys­tem.

In the mid-ming Dy­nasty, Qi Jiguang (1528–1588), a fa­mous gen­eral who re­sisted against the Ja­panese, greatly ren­o­vated and up­graded for­ti­fi­ca­tions of the Great Wall by height­en­ing and re­in­forc­ing it, es­tab­lish­ing crenels on both sides of the wall and adding holes for shoot­ing on the lower part of the wall. Ad­di­tion­ally, some strate­gic sec­tions of the wall were capped with mul­ti­layer bar­rier walls to fight against en­e­mies climb­ing onto the wall. Qi also built sta­tions along the Great Wall for the army sta­tioned at the wall.

The com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work of the Great Wall was based on count­less bea­con tow­ers, which were built at strate­gic places or on moun­tains. If en­e­mies sur­faced, smoke would be re­leased in day­time but fires started at night. The quan­tity of smoke or fires in­di­cates the num­ber of troops. To trans­mit in­for­ma­tion as soon as pos­si­ble, bea­con tow­ers would send sig­nals (smoke or fires) in turn.

Cur­rently, the Great Wall no longer needs to play its role in de­fence but only helps peo­ple to re­call past wars and ex­plore the wall's lo­ca­tions, struc­tures, ma­te­ri­als and con­struc­tion.

A Sym­bol of Civil­i­sa­tion

Through­out his­tory, many wars broke out near the Great Wall, a source for many war sto­ries. In the Qin Dy­nasty, Meng Tian led hun­dreds of thou­sands of troops and civil­ians in in­te­grat­ing the de­fen­sive walls north of Qin, Zhao and Yan states in the War­ring States Pe­riod into a new wall, while re­pair­ing and re­in­forc­ing the wall. By means of the wall, Meng fought off Xiongnu troops sev­eral times, which made him a hero in the Qin Dy­nasty.

In the West­ern Han Dy­nasty, renowned gen­er­als Wei Qing (year of birth un­cer­tain–106 BC) and Huo Qub­ing (140–117 BC) also be­came vic­to­ri­ous over their Xiongnu en­e­mies. Dur­ing the Ming Dy­nasty, Qi Jiguang played an im­por­tant role in ren­o­vat­ing and re­in­forc­ing the Great Wall and built it into an im­pass­able line of de­fence.

In mod­ern times, the Great Wall be­came a sym­bol of Chi­nese re­sis­tance against the Ja­panese ag­gres­sion, wit­ness­ing Chi­nese troops' brav­ery in fight­ing against the Ja­panese in­vaders.

In ad­di­tion to its role in de­fense, the Great Wall is also a sym­bol of Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion and spirit. To­day, sec­tions of the Great Wall in Bei­jing, such as Badal­ing, Mu­tianyu, Si­matai, Jiankou and Juy­ong­guan as well as Huanghuacheng Lake­side Great Wall, have be­come pop­u­lar scenic re­sorts, draw­ing tourism from both Chi­nese and for­eign­ers.

Badal­ing Sec­tion of the Great Wall

Jiankou Great Wall

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