History of Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is a series of stone and earthen fortifications in , built, rebuilt, and maintained between the 5th century BC and the 16th century to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire during the rule of successive dynasties. Several walls, referred to as the Great Wall of China , were built since the 5th century BC. The most famous is the wall built between 220 BC and 200 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang; little of it remains; it was much farther north than the current wall, which was built during the Ming Dynasty.

The Great Wall is the world's longest human-made structure, stretching over approximately 6,400 km (4,000 miles) from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Nur in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia, but stretches to over 6,700 km (4,160 miles) in total. It is also the largest human-made structure ever built in terms of surface area and mass. At its peak the Ming Wall was guarded by more than one million men. It has been estimated that somewhere in the range of 2 to 3 million Chinese died as part of the centuries-long project of building the wall.

The first major wall was built during the reign of the First Emperor, the main emperor of the short-lived Qin dynasty. This wall was not constructed as a single endeavor, but rather was created by the joining of several regional walls built by the Warring States. It was located much further north than the current Great Wall, and very little remains of it. A defensive wall on the northern border was built and maintained by several dynasties at different times in Chinese history. The Great Wall that can still be seen today was built during the Ming Dynasty, on a much larger scale and with longer lasting materials (solid stone used for the sides and the top of the Wall) than any wall that had been built before. The primary purpose of the wall was not to keep out people, who could scale the wall, but to insure that semi-nomadic people on the outside of the wall could not cross with their horses or return easily with stolen property.

There have been four major walls:

208 BC (the Qin Dynasty)

1st century BC (the Han Dynasty)

1138 - 1198 (the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period)

1368-1620 (from Hongwu Emperor until Wanli Emperor of the Ming Dynasty)

The Chinese were already familiar with the techniques of wall-building by the time of the Spring and Autumn Period, which began around the 7th century BC. During the Warring States Period from the 5th century BC to 221 BC, the states of Qi, Yan and Zhao all constructed extensive fortifications to defend their own borders. Built to withstand the attack of small arms such as swords and spears, these walls were made mostly by stamping earth and gravel between board frames.

Qin Shi Huang conquered all opposing states and unified in 221 BC, establishing the Qin Dynasty. Intending to impose centralized rule and prevent the resurgence of feudal lords, he ordered the destruction of the wall sections that divided his empire along the former state borders. To protect the empire against intrusions by the Xiongnu people from the north, he ordered the building of a new wall to connect the remaining fortifications along the empire's new northern frontier.

Transporting the large quantity of materials required for construction was difficult, so builders always tried to use local resources. Stones from the mountains were used over mountain ranges, while rammed earth was used for construction in the plains. The peasants who died working were buried inside the wall, to be unearthed later by archaeologists. There are no surviving historical records indicating the exact length and course of the Qin Dynasty walls. Most of the ancient walls have eroded away over the centuries, and very few sections remain today. Possibly as many as one million people died building the Wall under the Qin Dynasty.

Later, the Han, Sui, Northern and Jin dynasties all repaired, rebuilt, or expanded sections of the Great Wall at great cost to defend themselves against northern invaders.

The Great Wall concept was revived again during the Ming Dynasty following the Ming army's defeat by the Oirats in the Battle of Tumu in 1449. The Ming had failed to gain a clear upper-hand over the Mongols after successive battles, and the long-drawn conflict was taking a toll on the empire. The Ming adopted a new strategy to keep the nomadic Mongols out by constructing walls along the northern border of . Acknowledging the Mongol control established in the Ordos Desert , the wall followed the desert's southern edge instead of incorporating the bend of the Huang He .

Unlike the earlier Qin fortifications, the Ming construction was stronger and more elaborate due to the use of bricks and stone instead of rammed earth. As Mongol raids continued periodically over the years, the Ming devoted considerable resources to repair and reinforce the walls. Sections near the Ming capital of Beijing were especially strong.

Towards the end of the Shun Dynasty, the Great Wall helped defend the empire against the Manchu invasions that began around 1600. Under the military command of Yuan Chonghuan, the Ming army held off the Manchus at the heavily fortified Shanhaiguan pass, preventing the Manchus from entering the Liaodong Peninsula and the Chinese heartland. The Manchus were finally able to cross the Great Wall in 1644, when the gates at Shanhaiguan were opened by Wu Sangui, a Ming border general who disliked the activities of rulers of the Shun Dynasty. The Manchus quickly seized Beijing , and defeated the newly founded Shun Dynasty and remaining Ming resistance, to establish the Qing Dynasty.

Under Qing rule, 's borders extended beyond the walls and was annexed into the empire, so construction and repairs on the Great Wall were discontinued. A counterpart wall to the Great Wall in the south was erected to protect and divide the Chinese from the 'southern barbarians' called Miao (meaning barbaric and nomadic).

Notable Areas:

The following three sections are in Beijing municipality, which were renovated and which are regularly visited by modern tourists

The " North Pass " of Juyongguan pass, known as the Badaling. When used by the Chinese to protect their land, this section of the wall has had many guards to defend capital [ Beijing ]. Made of stone and bricks from the hills, this portion of the Great Wall is 7.8 meters (25.6 ft) high and 5 meters (16.4 ft) wide.
v One of the most striking sections of the Ming Great Wall is where it climbs extremely steep slopes. It runs 11 kilometers (7 mi) long, ranges from 5 to 8 meters (16?6 ft) in height, and 6 meters (19.7 ft) across the bottom, narrowing up to 5 meters (16.4 ft) across the top. Wangjinglou is one of Jinshanling's 67 watchtowers, 980 meters (3,215 ft)above sea level.
South East of Jinshanling, is the Mutianyu Great Wall which winds along lofty, cragged mountains from the southeast to the northwest for approximately 2.25 kilometers (about 1.3 miles).It is connected with Juyongguan Pass to the west and Gubeikou to the east.

Another notable section lies near the eastern extremity of the wall, where the first pass of the Great Wall was built on the Shanhaiguan (known as the "Number One Pass Under Heaven"), the first mountain the Great Wall climbs. Jia Shan is also here, as is the Jiumenkou, which is the only portion of the wall that was built as a bridge. Shanhaiguan Great Wall is called the "Museum of the Construction of the Great Wall", because of the Meng Jiang-Nu Temple , built during the Song Dynasty.


Before the use of bricks, the Great Wall was mainly built from earth, stones, and wood.

During the Ming Dynasty, however, bricks were heavily used in many areas of the wall, as were materials such as tiles, lime, and stone. The size and weight of the bricks made them easier to work with than earth and stone, so construction quickened. Additionally, bricks could bear more weight and endure better than rammed earth. Stone can hold under its own weight better than brick, but is more difficult to use. Consequently, stones cut in rectangular shapes were used for the foundation, inner and outer brims, and gateways of the wall. Battlements line the uppermost portion of the vast majority of the wall, with defensive gaps a little over 30 cm (one foot) tall, and about 23 cm (9 inches) wide.

The steps that form the Great Wall of China are very steep and tall in some areas. Tourists often become exhausted climbing the wall and walk no more than a kilometre or two (around a mile).


While some portions north of Beijing and near tourist centers have been preserved and even reconstructed, in many locations the Wall is in disrepair. Those parts might serve as a village playground or a source of stones to rebuild houses and roads.

Sections of the Wall are also prone to graffiti and vandalism. Parts have been destroyed because the Wall is in the way of construction. No comprehensive survey of the wall has been carried out, so it is not possible to say how much of it survives, especially in remote areas. Intact or repaired portions of the Wall near developed tourist areas are often frequented by sellers of tourist kitsch.

More than 60 kilometres (37 mi) of the wall in Gansu province may disappear in the next 20 years, due to erosion from sandstorms. In places, the height of the wall has been reduced from more than five meters (16.4 ft) to less than two meters. The square lookout towers that characterize the most famous images of the wall have disappeared completely. Many western sections of the wall are constructed from mud, rather than brick and stone, and thus are more susceptible to erosion.

The materials used are those available near the site of construction. Near Beijing the wall is constructed from quarried limestone blocks. In other locations it may be quarried granite or fired brick. Where such materials are used, two finished walls are erected with earth and rubble fill placed in between with a final paving to form a single unit. In some areas the blocks were cemented with a mixture of glutinous rice and eggwhite.In the extreme western desert locations, where good materials are scarce, the wall was constructed from dirt rammed between rough wood tied together with woven mats.

The Wall is included in lists of the "Seven Medieval Wonders of the World" but was of course not one of the classical Seven Wonders of the World recognized by the ancient Greeks. The Wall was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

There is a longstanding disagreement about how visible the wall is in space. Richard Halliburton's 1938 book Second Book of Marvels said the Great Wall is the only man-made object visible from the moon. This myth has persisted, assuming urban legend status, sometimes even entering school textbooks. The Great Wall simply cannot be seen by the unaided eye from the distance of the moon. Even its visibility from near-earth orbit is questionable.

One astronaut reported, "We can see things as small as airport runways [but] the Great Wall is almost invisible from only 180 miles (290 km) up." Astronaut William Pogue thought he had seen it from Skylab but discovered he was actually looking at the Grand Canal near Beijing . He spotted the Great Wall with binoculars, but said that "it wasn't visible to the unaided eye." An Apollo astronaut said no human structures were visible at a distance of a few thousand miles. Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei said he couldn't see it at all.

From low-earth orbit, about a thousand times nearer than the moon, it may be visible under favorable conditions. Features on the moon that are dramatically visible at times can be undetectable on others, due to changes in lighting direction. The Great Wall is only a few meters wide - sized similar to highways and airport runways - and is about the same color as the soil surrounding it.Veteran U.S. astronaut Gene Cernan has stated: "At Earth orbit of 160 km to 320 km high, the Great Wall of China is, indeed, visible to the naked eye." Ed Lu, Expedition 7 Science Officer aboard the International Space Station, adds that, "'s less visible than a lot of other objects. And you have to know where to look."

A recent photograph taken from the International Space Station appears to confirm that 's Great Wall can be seen with the naked eye after all. Leroy Chiao, a Chinese-American astronaut, took what the state-run China Daily newspaper says is the first photographic evidence that the Great Wall could be seen from space with the naked eye, under certain favorable viewing conditions and if one knows exactly where to look.

Battle Forts and Watch Towers:

The wall is complemented by defensive fighting stations, to which wall defenders may retreat if overwhelmed. Each tower has unique and restricted stairways and entries to confuse attackers. Barracks and administrative centers are located at larger intervals. In addition to the usual military weapons of the period, specialized wall defense weapons were used. Reproductions of weapons are displayed at the wall.

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. It is one of the best sections of Great Wall. The Mutianyu section is crenellated for watching and shooting at the invading enemy. Some of the battle forts on the wall are as close as 50 meters apart.

The wall also has watch towers at regular intervals, which were used to store weapons, house troops, and send smoke signals. Barracks and administrative centers are located at larger intervals. Communication between the army units along the length of the Great Wall, including the ability to call reinforcements and warn garrisons of enemy movements, was of high importance. Signal towers were built upon hill tops or other high points along the wall for their visibility.

Origin of the Great Wall:

From 770 B.C. through 476 B.C. was the Spring and Autumn Period of China. During the Period, princes that held land from the Zhou Kingdom made themselves states. Among all the 149 states, the most powerful were the Qi, Jin, Chu, Qin, Lu and Zheng States.

For the wide use of iron tools and farm cattle, the social production of this period progressed greatly. The higher-rank people started to gain private croplands. The land was privatized, and the basic social system of the day, i.e. the Well Field System, began to collapse, which cracked Zhou Kingdom's leadership over its princes and caused among them wars for domination.

To conquer other states, stronger ones made frequent wars upon others. Only a few out of the more than a hundred had finally survived, and were anxious for a new round of war. These states included Qin, Wei, Yan, Zhao, Han, Qi, Chu, also referred to as "the Seven Powers", and others less strong. And the history came to the Warring States Period (B.C. 475 ~ 221).

The social production of this Period continued to grow. The advancing in agriculture and handicraft gave rise to thriving cities acting as marketplaces. The architecture of this time also improved remarkably and made it possible to build solider constructions of better structures in more flexible steps. On the other hand, wars went on unabatedly between the states, some of which at the same time were harassed by minority nationalities from the north. Hence the states built walls around important cities, especially their capitals.

A latest excavation has revealed that the wall-surrounded capital Linzi of the Qi State in the Warring States Period was four kilometers from east to west, and five kilometers from north to south. Palaces to rulers lay inside. Distributed in the city were workshops selling instruments made by way of smelting iron ores, casting bronze, abrading and carving bones and the like. It is recorded in Shi Ji, a great historical literature, that Linzi had over 700,000 families (the unit ancient Chinese used to count population) and was "so crowed with people and vehicles that they could hardly go without brushing each other".

The city Xiadu of the Yan State was eight kilometers from east to west, and four kilometers from north to south. The capital Handan of Zhao was three and four kilometers from east to west and from north to south.

Because walls around cities proved excellent defense, the states wanted to utilize this advantage widely. Hence they built walls on the borders and joined them up with natural barriers like large embankments and steep mountain ridges.

The building of walls expensed countless labors. But they were undoubtedly grand constructions even seen today.

Qin Dynasty:The "First" Great Wall:

In 221 B.C., King Qin Shihuang defeated the other States, unified the whole China, and established the Qin Dynasty, also knowns as the First Empire, the first centralized empire in China. A long-time division by feudal lords ended.

The territory of the Qin Dynasty enlarged greatly, with its north border extending to present east Liaoning Province, Yinshan Mountains and the Great Bend of the Yellow River, the east border to the sea, the west to now Qinhai Province and the Gansu Plateau, and South to now Guangdong and Guangxi Province. The Qin Dynasty abolished other characters, laws and metrologies. To eradicate the influence of division left by the warring states, it replaced the enfeoffment with prefectures and counties and torn down the walls and embankments that blocked connections.

Hun, one old minority nationality from the north of China, began to thrive in the late Warring States War Period. When the Yan and Zhao States were falling off, Hun invaded them and bit by bit occupied large patches of land in the Great Bend area of the Yellow River. Hun migrated with seasons and based their agriculture mainly on collecting plants and hunting. This tradition made their troopers fast, depending on which the Huns looted labors and wealth on Qin's border. Hun damaged farming work and setting the north border of the Qin Dynasty unrest.

To solve the border trouble, Qin Shihuang appointed General Meng Tian for garrisoning troops on the north. In 215 B.C., Meng Tian led an army numbered 3,000,000 and assaulted Hun successfully. The battle returned present the south area of the Great Bend of the Yellow River of Southwest of Mongolia Province. Moreover, he swept crossed the Yellow River and took up present Linhe County, the Yinshan Mountains and the area north to the Wujiahe River, and set in these places 44 counties. The war forced Hun out of the Wall of Zhao and eliminated its threat over the Qin Dynasty.

Qin Shihuang later found that the walls of the Yan, Zhao and ex-Qin States were disconnected from each other and could hardly stop enemies from breaking in again. So in the year 215 B.C., he ordered to link up these three walls. The weather-beaten parts were also reconstructed and new parts were added in some places. The labors for this construction numbered 2,000,000, made up of the army under the command of Meng Tian, confiscated labors, captives of war and the guilty people against laws of that time. The whole construction lasted for 10 years.

The finished wall extended further at the north end as the territory of the Qin Dynasty in the north had expanded. The wall started at Lintao, i.e. Minxian County now, went eastward to now Guyuan of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, met the Wall of the Zhao State that ran eastward from Gaoque of the Great Bend of the Yellow River, went on and crossed the Yellow River, entered now north Shanxi and Hebei Province, ran the rest part of the Wall of the Zhao State and headed on along the north branch of Yanshan Mountain, passed by way of the five counties of Shangu, Yuyang, Right Beiping, West Liao and East Liao, and finally arrived at Jieshishan Mountain near the Datongjiang River of Pyongyang, Korea. This wall was longer than and lay slightly north to the Great Wall we see today, which was built by the Ming Dynasty about 1,500 years after.

Since the Liberation of China, the Chinese government has launched several investigations on the Great Wall of the Qin Dynasty along the route that passed by Minxian County of Gansu Province, Langyashan Couty, Yanshan Mountain, Chifeng of Hebei Province till entering into Jilin Province. The relics of the wall can still be seen scattered along the route. Some parts relatively well preserved are about five or six meters high, made of blocks of mud or stone of the local resources.

Han Dynasty: the Great Wall is Extended:

In 206 B.C., the Qin Dynasty was overthrown due to its tyrannical rule mostly for the large expenses required for building the Wall. In 202 B.C., after several years' civil war, it was finally replaced by a new feudal dynasty – the Han Dynasty. Historians call the period from 202 B.C. to A.D. 8. Earlier Han, and Later Han from A.D. 25 to A.D. 220. Between the two periods was a transient ruling time of Wang Mang and Liu Xuan. Han Dynasty lasted over 400 years and is regarded as the first golden time in Chinese history.

When the Han Dynasty was established, for the long-time war against the Qin Dynasty, the agriculture had almost ruined. The economy recessed and the national treasury was virtually empty. To bring through this severe crisis, Emperor Liu Bang, also know as Han Gaozu, softened some crucial policies related to the peasants, such as taxation, and made it the chief task to recover the agriculture and stabilize the social order. Gradually, the agriculture, handicraft industry and commerce restored and began to develop.

Accompanying the renewal, Hun in the north was stronger than ever and ambitious. To appease Hun, Han Gaozu married daughters of his family to Hun, wishing through this alliance to relent the two-county relation. The marriage treaty with Hun handed down to later emperors of Han Wendi and Han Jingdi. It existed for over 100 years.

When Junchen became ruler of Hun, he often dispatched troopers to Shangjun and Yunzhong Counties on the north border of Han. Hun killed people and looted properties and put the border in turbulence. On the other hand, due to the softened policies continuously adopted during the rule of Han Wendi and Han Jingdi, the economy of the Han Dynasty recovered, and the military strength was becoming powerful too. After Han Wudi had succeeded, he saw the fit to fight back against Hun. A war that lasted more than 30 years finally broke out.

In 127 B.C., General Wei Qing led an army and marched west from Yunzhong County and recaptured the Great Bend area of the Yellow River. To consolidate the frontier, he set up Shuofangzhen County and repaired a part of the wall left by the Qin Dynasty.

Later, Han built walls mainly for three times.

In 121 B.C., Huo Qubing, titled by Han Wudi General of the Flying Cavalry, led an army of 10,000 troopers from present Longxi and defeated Hun utterly. Hu Xiewang, Hu official governing the west area to the Yellow River, i.e. the Hexi Region, was captured and submitted to the Han Dynasty. The area he ruled was also incorporated within the territory of Han. To secure the Gansu Corridor, thoroughfare on the Silk Road, in 121 B.C., Han set up the two counties of Wuwei and Jiuquan, and the next year Zhangye and Dunhuang Counties. To protect and maintain the Silk Road leading to the West Regions, King Han Wudi built the wall that ran west from now Yongdeng to Jiuquan.

Han's control of the Hexi Region paved way to Zhan Qian's second diplomatic mission to countries in the West Regions, which marked the formal opening of the celebrated Silk Road. But the Road was since harassed. In 108 B.C., Han Wudi dispatched troops and broke up the two states of Cheshi and Liulan, puppets under Hun in this area. Moreover, he built a wall that ran towards the west from Jiuquan to Yu'me.

In 102 B.C., General Lu Bode was appointed for stationing troops in present Luobupo. He presided over building the wall running west from Yu'men to Yanze, i.e. present Luobupo.

In 101 B.C., to perpetuate the safety of the Gansu Corridor, Han Wudi set up fortresses along the line 500 kilometers north parallel to the middle portion of the Hexi-Region Wall.

The three walls combined as one, celebrated as the Hexi-Region Wall of Han Dynasty, which linked up to a fair part of the Qin-Dynasty Wall, forming a new wall that ran up to 10,000 kilometers, the longest wall in Chinese history that traversed present six provinces, i.e. Liaoning, Inner Mongolia, Hebei, Ningxia, Gansu and Xinjiang. The east end of the Wall extended to as far as the north part of Korea. Containing a large part of the Wall of the Qin Dynasty, the 10,000-kilometer Wall is also referred to as the Qin-Han Great Wall.

Lying in the border area, the wall of Earlier Han was also mentioned as "border wall". It was usually three to four meters high and about two meters wide. Though stacked or stamped with earth and stone, it was considerably solid; in present Min'qin, Dunhuang and Yumen of Gansu Province, relics of the Wall and beacons can still be found. Along the wall were set up garrisons equipped with beacons.

In the Han Dynasty, firing the beacon when enemies pushed in abided by a rigid formula. At an exigent event, if in the daytime, hay and dried reed were burned, giving off heavy smoke signifying an alarm; while at night, blazing fire lighted the dark sky. It is recorded in one literature that "small beacons were apart every five li and larger ones every ten li; a fortress was built every 30 li and a city every 100 li".

In 8 B.C., Wang Mang, whose family gained ascendance then, managed to usurp the throne and changed the dynasty to "Xin". Proceeding to it was a 17-year turbulence. Wang Mang reformed the social system, but some new diplomatic policies caused the resentment of Hun, which was then recovering from the utter defeat in the Earlier Han. Hun finally won the war against Wang Mang. To maintain his regime, Wang Mang also exerted coercion on his government. All these eventually led a wave of uprisings. In A.D. 25, Liu Xiu, of loyal birth of the Earlier Han Dynasty, supported by the Lulin Army, one uprising power, finished Wang Mang's short-lived Xin dynasty. Liu Xiu returned the dynasty of Han. For distinction, historians call it Later Han and the period before Wang Mang's rule Earlier Han. Liu Xiu became Later Han's first emperor, i.e. King Guang Wudi.

In the first years of Later Han, Hun was developing fast and began raiding the north border again, while Liu Xiu was involved in the civil war with his opponent forces and had hardly taken any measures.

On winning the war, Liu Xiu added more soldiers to the border and built more than one lower and thinner border walls to the south of the Earlier-Han Wall, and near their lines set up beacons and fortresses. These border walls thickened the defense area in the frontier. It is mentioned in the Book of Later Han, a complied historical literature, that "in the year Jianwu 12 (A.D. 36), General Du Mao ordered garrisons build beacons and fortresses" and that "in the 14th year of Guangwu (A.D. 39), General Ma Cheng took over Du Mao, continuing to build the four border walls separately from the Hexi Region to Weiji, from Heshang to Anyi, from Taiyuan to Jingxing and from Zhongshan to Ye. Besides, "he furnished the walls with beacons and deposited command posts along the walls every five li". The four barriers well guarded Later Han's capital – Luoyang. The present positions of the walls are as follows:

* The wall from Hexi Region to Weiji: from Lishi County of Shanxi Province to southeast Xianyang of Shannxi Province
* The Wall from Heshang to Anyi: from east Gaoling County of Shannxi Province to Anyi County of Shanxi Province
* The wall from Taiyuan to Jingxing: from Taiyuan of Shanxi Province to Jingxing County of Hebei Province
* The wall from Zhongshan to Ye: from south Dingxian County of Hebei Province to Linzhang County of He'nan Province

Later, Hun occurred certain inner cleavage and was eventually divided into two groups: the south and the north. The Southern Hun merged into Han people and contributed to the peace of the north border. The Northern Hun was afterwards driven out of the Mongolia Plateau and Xinjiang in the time of King Han Hedi (88 ~ 105). The Han Dynasty expanded its territory to the further north and West Regions that were far beyond the Wall. Han Dynasty since didn't build any walls.

In recent years, along the middle part of the Wall of Han Dynasty, i.e. Wuyuan and Yunzhong County of that time, mainly present Wulateqianqi, Baotou, Dongsheng, Tumoteqi, Hohehot of Inner Mongolia, archeologists have discovered more than 20 walls and fortresses of the Later Han. These medium-sized fortresses monopolize strategic positions, each consisting of two circles. One fortress site, stamped with earth, lying at the foot of Yanshan Mountain in the Butu Village of Huhehot, of its outer circle is about 900 meters wide from north to south and 850 meters from east to west. Its layout indicates that the offices were planted in the inner city, and in outer city were mainly deployed barracks, croplands and training grounds.

Sui Dynasty: More Walls Added to the Great Wall:

In the time of King Zhou Xuandi, the military power of Northern Zhou was actually under the hand of Yang Jian. In 580, Zhou Xuandi died and the dynasty announced King Zhou Jingdi. The next year, Yang Jian forced Zhou Jingdi to give out his throne. Yang Jian then founded the dynasty Sui and ascended to the kingship. In 589, Yang Jian, i.e. King Sui Wendi, occupied Jiankang, capital of the Chen Dynasty. With the last of the southern dynasties (the Song, Qi, Liang and Chen Dynasties) dying out, China unified again into the Sui Dynasty.

To consolidate his rule over the new dynasty, King Sui Wendi reformed the official structure and military systems, punished the corrupt, abolished cruel tortures to the guilty, and freed people from forced labor. Meanwhile, he formed the imperial-examination system for the first time in Chinese history, which assured the fairness of talented people into the government. Gradually, the Sui Dynasty restored from the civil war and began to thrive.

But at the same time the nomad nationality Tujue harassed frequently about Sui's north borderline from Youzhou to the west West Regions. To resist Tujue's invasion, Sui Dynasty requisitioned large numbers of labors to repair and build walls for several times. The walls are as follows:

** In April 581, Sui ordered Jihu, one descendant of South Hun, to build walls. This construction was limited to 20 days.

** In December 581, Sui repaired the eastern parts of the Northern Wei and Northern Qi Dynasty.

** In 585, Sui requisitioned 30,000 labors to fix the wall running from eastern bank of the Yellow River in Linwu of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region to present Suide of Shannxi Province. This part of wall extended from east to west about 350 kilometers.

** In 586, Sui repaired its walls thoroughly within 20 days. Meanwhile, to protect its borderline, Sui built more than ten fortresses along the east part of wall in present Henshan County of Shannxi.

** It is recorded in one literature that "in 587, Sui requisitioned more than 100,000 labors to fix up the wall within 20 days." But the starting point and destination of this construction are not mentioned.

** In July 607, Sui ordered more than 1,000,000 labors to build the wall running east from present Yulin of Shannxi Province to the bank of Hunhe River. The whole construction was limited to 10 days.

** In July 608, Sui ordered 200,000 labors to build the wall starting at present Xining of Qinhai Province. The wall went east, but the destination is not recorded in historical materials.

Ming Dynast:The Wall's Importance Reaches a New Height:

Sui expensed large numbers of labors and set severe time limits for building walls. At such great cost, the constructions were finished. But it broke countless families so as to the extreme of tyranny, and eventually incurred uprisings. The Sui Dynasty breathed its last in 618 after its 37-year rule, and was finally replaced by the Tang Dynasty (618 ~ 907).

The strength of Tang Dynasty reached the peak of all times. And the north borderline was far beyond the Wall. So the Tang Dynasty didn't build any wall.

For the following period from Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms to the Song Dynasty, the walls fell into the territories of the two states of Liao and Jin and were not renovated.

In 1279, Mongol founded the Yuan Dynasty. With the north and south of China unified, it occupied a large territory, the largest ever in Chinese history. Without harassment form beyond the Wall, no wall was built.

In 1368, through a series of battles against Yuan, the Ming Dynasty established.

In its first years, to consolidate its rule and stabilize the society, Ming reduced taxes for peasants and propped up commercial activities. The social production gradually recovered and the economy began to evolve. The state-run industries, such as iron and bronze, weapon and ammunition industries and civil engineering, also developed and came to the highest level of all times.

On the other hand, Mongol, once defeated with their dynasty Yuan falling down and forced beyond the Wall, wished to come back to rule. It frequently harassed the north border of Ming. Besides Mongol, another nomad nationality, Nuzhen, sprang up to the northeast of Ming, ambitiously waiting for its chance.

To protect its borderline, Ming built walls for several times. It at first only fixed up the poor-conditioned walls hundreds of years old. Later it began to build new walls in large scales. The walls built during this time were grand and excellent for defense. Attributed to solid materials, they were much firmer than their previous ones, and have survived hundreds of years so people can see it today. The Great Wall today was mostly built in the Ming Dynasty. The following is about the wall constructions during the Ming Dynasty.

From 1399 to 1402, King Ming Huidi built the wall starting in present Xuanhua and ending in now Datong of Shanxi.

In 1413, to strengthen the defense on the north, King Ming Chengzu dug a deep and wide trench along the inner side of the above wall and piled the diggings into a stone fence. (Trench and fence heaped of the diggings was one form of wall for defense purpose. It was adopted in places where walls couldn't be easily built or materials lacked.) The trench started at Xi'ma'lin of Wanquan County of Hebei Province and ran about 100 kilometers eastward to the Chang'an'ling Fortress of Xuanhua of Hebei Province.

In 1436, King Ming Yingzong set up 22 watchtowers along the line running about 250 kilometers from Longwu County of Hebei Province to Dushikou to North Jixian County. The same year, Ming built beacons along the route from present Yanchi of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

In 1466, King Ming Xianzong built two groups of 34 platforms along the two lines separately going from Dingbian County to Huanxian County and from Anbian County to Qingyang County. The both lines went northward from present east Gansu Province to north Shannxi Province.

In the time of Ming Yingzong, Mongolia lying in the north was dominated by Tuohuan, head of Wala, one major branch of Mongolia, and gradually thrived. Yexian, son of Tuohuan, continued his father's rule and focused on developing the military strength. With his military power, Yexian invaded Ming frequently. In 1449, Yexian led armies from three ways towards Ming. King Ming Yingzong commanded troops personally on wrong advice and was ultimately captured in Tumu, which battle known as "Tumu Crisis". Yexian was finally defeated in his attack on present Beijing, capital of Ming. He returned Ming Yingzong the next year after failures of taking him as hostage. Since then the kings of the Ming Dynasty all engaged in strengthening the north-border defense by adding devices and building new walls.

King Ming Xianzong noticed that though troops were already stationed in the Shanhaiguan Pass, Xifengkou, Gubeikou, the Juyongguan Pass and the Daomaguan Pass, yet these passed were disconnected from each other and exposed to invasion from the hillside. So in 1476, Ming Xianzong built the wall running west from the Shanhaiguan Pass to the Yanmenguan Pass by employing armies and residents.

In 1471, Yu Zijun, provincial governor responsible for the border safety of Shanbei Province, employed his army and people and built a wall in a very short time. The wall, together with 11 fortresses and nearly 100 beacons, ran about 850 kilometers from present northeast Shenmu County of Shannxi Province to present Yanchi County of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Furthermore, by cutting into mountains and flattening low lands along the south side of the wall, Yu paved up the passageway that started from Pianguan of Shanxi Province, ran west to Kuyuan County of Guansu Province and arrived in Yinchuan of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

In 1372, General Feng Sheng crusaded enemies to the West Regions, where he built the Jiayu Pass. In the time of King Ming Xiaozong, the city gate tower and the outer city were added to the Pass.

In the time of King Ming Xiaozong, he took official Yang Yiqing's advice to build the wall from present Anbian of Shannxi Province to the east bank of the Yellow River in Wulin County of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. The wall was to prevent enemies from sneak attack from the vast desert absent of natural barriers.

In the time of King Ming Wuzong, he took viceroy Weng Wanda's advice to fix up the 500-kilometer wall along with 363 beacons within Xuanfu and Datong County. Yet the wall blocked the road to Mongolia and made the trade inconvenient, so it was soon damaged intentionally. Weng Wanda advised to renovate it. King Ming Wuzong agreed. The wall was thus repaired again, thoroughly this time. Moreover, closets were added inside the wall for storing firearms.

In the time of Ming Muzong, two tribes called Anda and Tuman frequently invaded the border near Jimen, threatening Beijing. In 1568, Qi Jiguang was appointed chief officer dealing with military affairs of Jizhou, Changpin, Liaodong and Baoding. On investigation, he suggested repairing the wall from the Shanhaiguan Pass to Changpin and building along the line 3000 watchtowers. But King Ming Muzong consented only 1000 towers. The arduous construction started from 1569 and last three years. 1007 lookout towers were set up and the defense on the north border thus greatly strengthened.

On the whole, the Wall of the Ming Dynasty was built along the lines of the walls of the Northern Qi and the Northern Wei Dynasties. During the reigns of King Ming Taizu, Ming Yingzong and Ming Xianzong, the Ming Dynasty enhanced the north-border defense mainly by constructing passes and beacons. It's not until the time of King Ming Xiaozong that walls and over 1000 fortresses were built massively. The Great Wall we see today was mostly built that time.


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