GREAT WALL OF CHINA
The Great Wall of China is the world's longest wall. Estimates of its length vary from 1,500 miles to 31,250 miles, with most sources saying it is between 3,900 miles and 4,500 miles long. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it main line length is 2,150 miles, with an additional 2,195 miles of branches and spurs. According to the Chinese government, the Great Wall embraces a 2,150-mile-long main wall, occasionally broken up by mountains and other obstacles, and 1,780 miles of spurs and additions. [Sources: Peter Hessler, National Geographic, January 2003, The New Yorker, May 21, 2007]
The most comprehensive and technologically advanced survey to date—a two-year mapping project finished in 2009, using GPS and infrared technology—determined the wall stretches for 8,851.8 kilometers and includes 6,259.6 kilometers of actual wall, 359.7 kilometers of trenches and 2,322.5 kilometers of natural barriers such as mountains and rivers.
The Great Wall of China stretches across five northern Chinese provinces and five autonomous provinces from Bohai Bay on the Yellow Sea in the east to Jiayu Pass, 1,500 miles away, in the Gobi Desert, in the west. It ranges in height from 15 feet to 40 feet, and is up to 32 feet thick.
The Great Wall of China is as long as the Nile River (six Great Walls could stretch around the entire earth) and contains an estimated 400 million cubic yards of material, enough to build 120 pyramids equal in size to the Great Pyramid of Cheops, and enough to build all the buildings in Scotland and England in 1793.
Books: The Great Wall, China Against the World by Julia Lovell, a professor at Cambridge Cambridge (University Press (2006); The Great Wall of China from History to Myth by Arthur Waldron, a University of Pennsylvania professor (Cambridge University Press, 1992); The Great Wall of China by Daniel Schwartz.
Good Websites and Sources on the Great Wall of China: Great Wall of China.com greatwall-of-china.com ; Wikipedia ; UNESCO World Heritage Site Sites (click 1001wonders.org at the bottom: UNESCO World Heritage Site Map ; Great Wall greatwall-of-china.com ; UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site International Friends of the Great Wall Friends of the Great Wall ; China Map Guide; Links in this Website: GREAT WALL OF CHINA NEAR BEIJING factsanddetails.com . For more information on visiting the Great Wall and details about the different section accessible to visitors see Places or Use the Click Map at the Main China Page factsanddetails.com/china
Names and Claims and the Great Wall of China
The Chinese word for the Great Wall of China has traditionally been changcheng, which literally means “long wall” or “long walls.” When it was being built the walls were known by at least ten different names The Ming usually called them bianquing (“border walls”).
The term Great Wall was coined by Europeans and began to be widely used towards the end of the 19th century. Before that it was referred to by foreigners mostly as the “Chinese Wall.” Only in the 20th century after Westerners began calling it the Great Wall did the Chinese start calling it something similar: Wanli Changcheng (literally “10,000 li long wall”).
Many of the claims made about the Great Wall are untrue. It is not a single wall. It did not halt the Mongol invasion. And, it cannot be seen from the moon. "Although we can see things as small as airport runways," space shuttle astronaut Jay Apt wrote in National Geographic, "the Great Wall seems to made largely of materials that have the same color as the surrounding soil. Despite persistent stories that it can be seen from the moon, the Great Wall is almost invisible from only 180 miles up!"
According to a Scientific American report the Great Wall is visible only “from low orbit under a specific set of weather and lighting conditions.” Other man-made objects such as the pyramids are visible from space.
NASA radar image of the Great Wall
The source of the claim that the Great Wall can be seen from the moon is a 1925 National Geographic article which began. “According to astronomers, the only work of man’s hands which could be visible from the moon is the Great Wall of China.” Some also attribute the claim to a letter written in 1874 by English antiquarian William Stukely. In it he stated that Hadrian’s Wall is exceeded in length only "by the Chinese wall, which makes a considerable figure upon the terrestrial globe, and may discerned be at the moon.”
Composition of the Great Wall of China
The Great Wall is many different walls built at different times by different dynasties, composed of hundreds, if not thousands of disconnected sections. Most sections are composites of fortifications built by several dynasties, with most of the work done during the Ming dynasty. The Ming wall alone extends over 3,800 miles, with 6,700 beacon towers,
The Great Wall is made of packed earth, bricks and mortar, fieldstones and quarried rock. Some sections are made of stone and have crenelated watchtowers with vaulted ceilings and arched windows. Others are little more than crumbling piles of mud brick with animal shelters carved in them. In some places it isn’t a wall at all but a string of unconnected signal towers. Most sections are made of tamped earth. Long sections run across the tops of mountains and ridge tops, incorporating natural barriers such as cliffs and steep slopes. The Great Wall has outlived its usefulness for several centuries now and until fairly recently had been left to crumble into dust. Its only real use today is as a tourist attraction.
There are two main sections: the stone walls built as lines of defense around Beijing and the walls made mostly of tamped earth further to the west. The concept that the Great Wall is a continuous wall made of stone is derived largely by marrying the stone Ming walls that one sees north of Beijing, built between the 14th and 17th century, with descriptions of a 3.000 mile built in the 3rd century B.C. under Emperor Qin Shihuang.
Even today its is not clear what qualifies as a section of the Great Wall and what doesn’t. Some say that a section has to be a part of a 100 kilometer long chain to qualify. Other say any border fortification can be included. A satellite survey determined there were 390 miles of walls just in the Beijing area. Field work has determined that there is much more than that.
Much of the land around the wall is deforested . One reason for this is that the Imperial government decreed that all grass and trees within 100 kilometers of the wall be cleared to deprive attacking enemies of opportunities for surprise attacks. Near the wall the land was used to raise crops to feed soldiers that were stationed at the walls.
Military Importance of the Great Wall of China
In his book The Great Wall of China , the Sinologist Arthur Waldron, the the Wall was one of three defensive strategies that successive dynasties used to deal with Manchurians. Mongolians and other northern barbarians: 1. Intermarriage and diplomacy; 2. Scorched earth military campaigns into the barbarians own territory; and 3. Defensive wall building. Waldron suggests that the third strategy was the weakest, and that it was only in the more paranoid later Ming Dynasty that the strategy really took hold. Alastair Johnston and Julia Lovell promote the same reasoning. [Source: Posted by Jeremy Goldkorn, Danwei.org, October 6, 2009]
On the military importance of the Great Wall, Spindler told Danwei.org, “ First, there are several important examples of the Chinese using the Great Wall to fend off raids of several thousand Mongols, mostly in the third quarter of the sixteenth century. There are many more examples of the Chinese successfully using the Great Wall to defend against smaller raids in a much longer span of time.” [Ibid]
“Where I depart from Waldron is that he sees individual officials as advocating one of these strategies to the exclusion of the others and wall-building as a compromise policy when advocates of the first two cannot agree.” Spindler said. “All three of these strategies coexisted throughout nearly the entire Ming dynasty and were simply applied in different mixtures, at different times and in different places. There was no such thing as an advocate of wall-building at the exclusion of all other strategies, or someone who believed that diplomacy or pre-emptive strikes were the only way to make China strong on its northern border. In my opinion, wall-building wasn’t a compromise policy but an important strategy in its own right.” [Ibid]
Uses of the Great Wall of China
Fortifications and walls were solidified into the Great Wall of China to keep invaders from the north out. But keeping the barbarians out of China was not the only reason for the wall. It was also built for land grabbing purposes. According to historian Julia Lovell, author of a book about the Great Wall, it extended “hundreds of kilometers from the farmable land” in order to “police people” and “control lucrative trade routes.”
Great Wall tower At one time more than 40,000 watchtowers were strung along the Great Wall. Messages were relayed using signals made from fire, smoke, and gunpowder.
Smoke was used in the day and fire at night. Messages could be sent at a rate of 620 miles a day—about 26 miles an hour, faster than a man can ride on horseback. The most important messages were information of impending attacks with one lighted beacon and one round of cannon fire conveying an incursion of 100 men and five plumes of smoke and five rounds of cannon fire signifying 5,000 men. The straightest and longest-lasting plumes of smoke were produced by wolf dung which is why even today an outbreak of war is described as “wolf smoke across the land.”
The Chinese also used the wall as an elevated highway to move troops and equipment through rugged terrain. Some sections of the wall are wide enough to accommodate five horsemen or 12 armed soldiers walking abreast. Emperors sometimes led entire armies along the top of the wall.
Many people live near the wall and continue to use it today. Some have their houses built into it. One family with a house with 20-foot-thick walls told National Geographic it is “very warm in the winter, cool in the summer.” Some villages are entirely enclosed in high-walled forts and have the characters for “fort,” “barracks” or checkpoint” in their name. In other places holes have been pinched in the wall to allow sheep to pass and stones have been cannibalized as construction material and even sold to tourists at a price of $10 for one 10 kilogram stone.
Early History of the Great Wall of China
Early Great Wall The first sections of the Great Wall were built between 770 and 450 B.C. by small independent, often warring, kingdoms. It was first thought that the fortifications were built by small Chinese kingdoms to protect their irrigated lands along the Yangtze and Yellow rivers from steppe nomads to the north because the first walls were built roughly on a line originally thought to separate the fertile river valleys of the south from the steppe to the north. This was not always true, however. Sections of wall rose and fell with provincial states and were defined by a number of factors. The sections in present-day Hebei and Liaoning Prefectures are said to be the oldest.
Beginning in 221 B.C., existing walls were linked together and reinforced under orders from Emperor Qin, the first emperor of unified China. Hundreds of thousands of workers took part in the project and perhaps tens of thousands of them died. Many were political prisoners who were sentenced to ten years of hard labor. The wall itself was made mostly from compacted earth. The 180 million cubic meters of material used now lies at core of many sections of the wall.
As invaders from the north became stronger the fortifications of the Great Wall of China were built up to keep them out. If the Great Wall was breached, the Chinese believed, the invaders would assimilate themselves into the Chinese way of life once they realized its "superior attractions." For over a thousand years this strategy worked. After a period of disruption, invaders usually married Chinese women and were in fact absorbed. The dynasties that ruled China for the most part took over after power struggles within the empire.
The main threat in the early years of the Great Wall came from the Hu, a horse-riding nomadic people from Central Asia. They were mentioned in records relating to the Warring States period (303-221 B.C.) and the Qin dynasty (221-207 B.C.). The Hu had no interest in assimilation and easily skirted the wall.
Subsequent dynasties continued to rebuild and restore the walls, and occasionally criminals and political prisoners were thrown threw the gates and left to survive on their own in the north. During the Han dynasty so many trees were felled for scaffolding an ecological disaster occurred. The Tang dynasty kept the barbarians at bay by encouraging trade and cultural exchanges rather than building walls. In the 13th century, the walls failed to stop Genghis Khan, who reportedly said, "the strength of the wall depends on the courage of those who defend it." He reportedly breached it by bribing a sentry.
Great Wall of China Under the Ming Dynasty
The most famous and impressive sections of the Great Wall were built from mud, brick and stone during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The Ming emperors devoted a huge amount of resources and manpower to the project. Stones weighing over a ton were shaped, moved and heaved on top of each other. Over 60 million tons of bricks and stone slabs were used.
The Ming built their walls as lines of defense with as many as four rows of fortifications in strategic areas. They used durable materials and construction methods, intending to make something that lasted. Stone was quarried in the Beijing area. The mud bricks were made of soil, straw, tamarisk, egg yolk and rice paste. The earth was tamped with large chunks of rock and special tools.
The project took over a 100 years to complete. At one time, nearly one in every three males in China was conscripted to help build it. Towns along the wall became industrial areas for firing bricks, blasting rocks to make fill and sharpening stones. Army units were put to work on a rotating basis so no one unit would be overworked and rebel.
The towers and walls were often made separately with the towers being made first from brick that was carried in. Wall sections were built between the towers, first with local stone, and later with materials that were carried in. Construction was usually done in the spring when the weather was good but the Mongols were not active (they usually raided and attacked in the fall after their horses had been fattened up on summer grass). In some places tablets identify when a given wall section was built and name the officials involved in building it.
Hundreds of thousand of people died from severe weather, starvation and exhaustion while building the Great Wall of China. Many women were widowed and children left without fathers. A popular Ming era song went: "If a son is born, mind you don't raise him! If a girl is born, don’t feed her dried meat. Don't you just see below the Long Wall, dead men's skeletons prop each other up.”
Many people who live around the Great Wall today, especially in the hills northeast of Beijing, claim to be descendants of soldiers that were stationed on the wall. Many of these trace their roots back to a policy in the mid 1550s that aimed to prevent soldiers firm deserting by allowing their wives and families to move into the watchtowers with them. Some of the towers bear the same surnames of the families that live in nearby villages.
Great Wall of China Under Attack
While many scholars say that the Great Wall was no better than the Maginot line which failed to stop the Nazis from entering France, others say it served its purpose well. In the early years of the Ming dynasty the Chinese military often went on the offensive and pushed Mongol settlements away from the walls. Later the Chinese bribed Mongol leaders or set up lucrative trade opportunities to keep them from attacking. Many sections of the wall were built in the late Ming era when the Ming army was too weak to fight and the emperors were too proud to negotiate.
In a typical defense the Chinese used crude cannons, arrows cudgels and stones to defend against Mongol attacks. There were regulations about how many stones could used in a defense and how they would be carried to the wall. In some sections you can still see piles of stones ready to be used in the next attack.
The Mongols liked to approach the walls at night on horseback, in small groups. They followed ridge lines because they were concerned about ambushes. They were not interested in occupying land. They were raiders, who penetrated into Chinese territory and returned as quickly as possible. Often their objective was to steal livestock, valuables and Chinese people, who were forced into families, with the men trained to be spies behind Chinese lines while their wives and children stayed in Mongolia as hostages.
Cloud ladder, a Chinese
wall-mounting devise A major attack occurred in 1550 when the Mongols breached a crude section of stone wall and pillaged for two weeks, killing and capturing thousands of Chinese. After that more sturdy walls made with mortar were built. During the attack by Mongols around Jinshanling in October 1554, one document reported, a battle raged for two hours between 11:00am and 1:00pm. The Mongols used ropes to climb the walls. Chinese repelled them using arrows, crude cannons, clubs and even rocks. One Chinese soldier hacked off the hand of an attacker only to be killed moments later by an enemy arrow that pierced his head.
In 1576 there was another major Mongol attack. This time they penetrated through an area so rugged and remote building a wall was not considered necessary. During this raid the Mongols killed an estimated 20,000 Chinese. Another major campaign of wall building followed. After that the Chinese for the most were able to hold back the Mongols. At Shuitou, the Chinese withstood an attack by thousands of Mongols.
Only about a third of the Ming Dynasty wall remains intact. Because of the high quality of the construction, some wall sections today look pretty much as it did in the Ming Dynasty.
Later History of the Great Wall of China
After the Ming dynasty collapsed, Chinese intellectuals tended to see the Great Wall as huge waste of money and live. The Qing Dynasty let the walls deteriorate, in part because they were Manchu horsemen which the walls had been designed to keep out, plus they controlled territory far north of the wall. Into the 20th century the Great Wall was held in relatively low regard and was only given a boost when China needed a dose of nationalism to raise its esteem during bad times. Both Sun Yat-sen and Mao Zedong used the wall as symbols of Chinese strength, pride, hard work and greatness.
The Great Wall deteriorated under Mao. Peasants took tamped earth to patch their fields and grabbed stones to to build houses. In some places caves were dug into the wall to live in and store stuff. In other places stones were pried off by scorpion hunters looking for their prey. When asked what happened to missing sections many villagers will tell you they were dismantled to keep the Japanese from using them as observation posts and machine gun nests. During the Cultural Revolution in the early 1970s large parts of the wall were torn down by crowds chanting, "Down with the Four Olds" to make barracks and houses.
After the Cultural Revolution ended some sections were reportedly rebuilt by the same people who tore them down. A Deng Xiaoping era slogan went: "Let us love our China and restore our Great Wall!" In recent years the Great Wall has become quite popular. There are Great Wall tires, Great Wall wine, Great Wall cigarettes, Great Wall rockets and Great Wall computers.
Great Wall of China Today
Most of the sections visited by tourists were built in the Ming Dynasty and have been restored in the 20th century. Entire army units have been put to work rebuilding sections. Kilns have been set up to bake bricks. Rock faces have been dynamited to produce material for fill. Many sections have been rebuilt using ancient techniques and mortar according to ancient recipes. Laborers that do the rebuilding are paid about $3 a day.
Great Wall map
Although large sections of the Great Wall have been restored for tourism, much of it is has collapsed, been claimed by weather or been carted off as building materials for peasant huts, pigpens, roads, buildings and reservoirs. There have been sections deliberately blasted to make way for highways and quarries. Some sections have been fouled with graffiti or Communist party slogans. Other sections have been developed and fixed up for tourists in nightmarish ways. By one estimate two thirds of the wall has been damaged or destroyed and the rest is threatened. By another estimate 20 percent of the wall has been restored, 40 percent is in ruins and 40 percent had disappeared.
The western section of the wall has been worn away by wind, sand and water. Fierce winds blow off of the tops and sandblast the sides of the walls. Flash floods wash away the bases of the walls, causing the walls to weaken and collapse. Some sections have been covered desert sand dunes or have collapsed due to the coninuous freezing and thawing of the wall's foundations. The mud sections have largely disintegrated.
Sandstorms in northwest China are blamed for reducing sections of the Great Wall of China to dust and dirt in remarkably short periods of time. The problem is particularly severe in Gansu Province where many sections are made of from mud and mud brick rather than brick and stone. One three mile section in Minqiin County in Gansu that was built in the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to A.D. 220) is “rapidly disappearing” and may be gone in 20 years.
The modern world has caught up with some sections of the Great Wall. One seven-mile section in Gansu that was unbroken when it was photographed by the archeologist Aurel Stein in 1910 is now crossed, according to Great Wall expert William Lindesay, by “two rail lines, 17 power lines, the west-to-east gas line, 15 dirt roads, one main road, an abandoned main road and the G-312 expressway which is actually routed under the Wall”
China Says Great Wall Is Twice as Long as Previously Thought
China now believes the Great Wall is 21,198 kilometers (13,171 miles) long, more than twice the previous estimation. The new measure elicits skepticism amid territorial disputes. Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: "The Great Wall of China may be one of the most recognizable structures on Earth, but it is still in the process of revealing new layers of itself - to cries of disbelief and fury in some quarters. At a time when Beijing is asserting its territorial borders in the South China Sea, the discoveries are not universally applauded. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, July 17, 2012]
In early June, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage announced that it now believes the Great Wall is a stunning 13,171 miles long, if you put all of the discovered portions end to end. That's more than half the circumference of the globe, four times the span of the United States coast to coast and nearly 2 1/2 times the estimated length in a preliminary report released in 2009, two years into a project that saw the Chinese measure it for the first time. [Ibid]
To the extent that the Great Wall is a symbol of China, a bigger wall means, well, a bigger China, if only symbolically. "I'm very suspicious. China wants to rewrite history to make sure history conforms with the borders of today's China," said Stephane Mot, a former French diplomat and a blogger based in Seoul, who has accused the Chinese archaeologists of obliterating Korean culture. [Ibid]
Traditionally, the Great Wall was thought to extend from Jiayuguan, a desert oasis 1,000 miles west of Beijing, to Shanhaiguan, 190 miles east of the capital, on the Bohai Sea. In 2001, Chinese archaeologists announced that the wall extended deep into Xinjiang, the northwestern region claimed by the minority Uighurs as their homeland. Last month's announcement brought the eastern bounds of the wall to the North Korean border. That has outraged Koreans, who say the relics were built by ancient Koreans of the Koguryo kingdom, which occupied much of modern-day Manchuria from 37 BC to AD 688. "This is a distortion. The Chinese are using the wall to wipe out the Korean legacy, the same as they are doing with the Uighurs and Tibetans," said Seo Sang-mun, a military historian with Seoul-based Chung-Ang University. [Ibid]
Chinese defend the new measurements. "I would say that these are not necessarily 'new discoveries.' Rather, we are looking more carefully at what is on the ground and trying to clarify whether it is the Great Wall or not," Yan Jianmin, office director of the China Great Wall Society, a nongovernmental organization of scholars and wall enthusiasts. [Ibid]
The survey of the Great Wall's length involved thousands of people, with 15 provinces and regions submitting the results of their research to Beijing. In all, the State Administration certified 43,721 known sites of Great Wall remains, up from 18,344 before the survey. (Portions of the list were published on the agency's website, although it did not include the locations in Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces that are contested by the Koreans. Maps will not be released because they are considered a state secret.) [Ibid]
The difficulty is in defining what is "the Great Wall" and what is merely, well, an old wall. Describing the “discovery” of one purported wall section Demnick wrote: Zhang Lingmian was collecting walnuts in the countryside north of Beijing last autumn when a friend from a nearby village mentioned a mysterious structure in the mountains that had stumped locals. The retired cultural heritage official and his friend scampered uphill for two hours, whacking their way through the brambles after the path ran out. At the top of a 2,700-foot-high ridge, they reached a long trail of haphazardly placed rocks. Zhang says he immediately recognized what villagers called "the strange stones.""I knew right away it had to be part of the Great Wall of China," Zhang recalled on a recent hike to show off his discovery, about 50 miles from central Beijing. Although most of the rocks had tumbled down, a few piles reached up to Zhang's chest. "The walls just had to be high enough to keep the barbarians from crossing with their horses," explained Zhang, who says he has been studying the wall for 33 years. [Ibid]
What most people recognize as the Great Wall is the crenelated brick wall with watch towers and archer slits, the symbol of China from countless postcards and guide books. But there are many older walls dating from the 7th century that served the common purpose of defending China from invasion from the north. The late Luo Zhewen, who was considered the top Chinese authority on the subject, once wrote that nothing should be considered the Great Wall unless it was at least 30 miles long, clearly defensive in nature and not circular, as opposed to a wall to keep your sheep from wandering. [Ibid]
Mapping the Great Wall of China
In April 2009, China’s national mapping agency said The Great Wall of China is even greater than once thought, after a two-year government mapping study uncovered new sections totaling about 180 miles. Using infrared range finders and GPS devices, experts discovered portions of the wall concealed by hills, trenches and rivers that stretch from Hu Shan mountain in northern Liaoning province to Jiayu Pass in western Gansu province, the official China Daily reported. [Source: AP The Guardian, April 20, 2009]
The additional parts mean the Great Wall spans about 3,900 miles through the northern part of the country. The newly mapped parts of the wall were built during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) to protect China against northern invaders and were submerged over time by sandstorms that moved across the arid region, the study said.
The latest mapping project, a joint venture by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage and State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, will continue for another year in order to map sections of the wall built during the Qin and Han dynasties (221 BC-9 AD), the China Daily reported.
Recent studies by Chinese archaeologists have shown that sandstorms are reducing sections of the wall in Gansu to ‘mounds of dirt’ and that they may disappear entirely in 20 years. These studies mainly blame the erosion on destructive farming methods used in the 1950s that turned large areas of northern China into desert. In addition, portions of the wall in Gansu were made of packed earth, which is less resilient than the brick and stone used elsewhere in much of the wall's construction.
Preservation and Study of the Great Wall
Through much of its history—and even today—many Chinese had little interest in or affection for the Great Wall. One survey in 2006 found that only 28 percent of Chinese feel the wall didn't need to be preserved.
The detiorating condition of the Great problem is severe enough that the World Monument Fund added the wall to its list of “most endangered sites.” Organizations like the International Friends of the Great Wall have been established to help preserve it.
In December 2006, a the first nationwide law was enacted to protect the Great Wall from practices such as removing bricks to build homes and pigsties, carving one’s name into the wall and holding all night parties that leave the walls smelling of urine and littered with garbage. A construction company in Inner Mongolia was fined $64,000 for removing a section that was in its way. These days the problem is not the laws but enforcement. In some section there are only three people covering 1,300-kilometer of wall.
Some people have tried to hike the entire Great Wall. The American missionary and explorer William Edgar Geil traversed the length of the Great Wall--from “the tempestuous main of the Yellow Sea to the thirsty sands f the distant desert"-- between 1907 and 1908. William Lindesay, a British geologist and marathoner, ran and hiked 2,470 kilometers of the wall in 1987 and would have done more but was deported. He later moved to Beijing, wrote four books about the wall and founded Friends of the Great Wall, a small organization oriented primarily towards conservation.
With the Great Wall as famous as it is it is surprising how little it has been studied. Dong Yaoshi, a former utility worker, hiked thousands of miles of the wall beginning in 1984 and founded the Great Wall Society of China. Dong Feg, a policeman at Beijing University, is regarded a the most active Chinese researcher today. He runs Greatwall.com and discovered that breaks in the wall are there because they lie along dragon lines, important for the feng shui of Beijing.
David Spindler's Great Wall of China
David Spindler, a 6-foot-7 American independent scholar, is regarded by some as the premier expert of the wall. He has hiked much its length, often bushwhacking through brambles and thorns with a special outfit that includes a face mask made from the leg of a pair of sweat pants.
David Spindler is a self-motivated and self-funded scholar of the Great Wall, who has probably walked and climbed on more parts of the Wall around Beijing than any other living person. His approach to his studies has been unorthodox: he has an M.A. in history from Peking University, but his Great Wall research has been conducted outside of the university system. Nonetheless, his combination of highly athletic field research — the Wall around Beijing is built on some very steep and tall mountains — and more conventional academic research has started to bear fruit. [Source: Posted by Jeremy Goldkorn, Danwei.org, October 6, 2009]
In the first public exhibition of his research, Spindler has collaborated with photographer Jonathan Ball to produce a series of large-scale, historically-based photographs of the Great Wall. The photos are on display in an exhibition titled “China's Great Wall: The Forgotten Story,” shown at the 3A Gallery in San Francisco in 2009 and he offices of the Rockefeller Brothers in New York in 2009 and 2010.The photographs show parts of the the Wall where important Mongol and Manchu raids occurred in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, taken on the anniversaries of the raids, at approximately the time of day when the fighting happened. Each photograph stands over three feet tall, and stretches from 9 feet to over 30 feet wide. They are captioned with stories about the battles, drawn from Spindler's research.
Spindler says these photographs put you as close as possible in the modern era to the point of view of people who attacked or defended the Great Wall during these battles—the vegetation is the same, the light is the same, the time of year and even the time of day is the same.’
Explaining one photograph to Danwei Spindler said, “On the night of September 26, 1550, a group of Mongol warriors took picks and shovels and pushed apart the unmortared stone wall protecting the gully in this photograph. They suddenly appeared behind the main Chinese defensive force just east of this spot, surprised them, routed the defenders, and for the next two weeks looted, burned, and pillaged the northern suburbs of Beijing. The only extant account that quantifies the casualties (though certainly an exaggerated one) mentions sixty thousand Chinese killed, forty thousand taken captive, and millions of head of livestock lost as a result of this raid. One of the main Chinese responses to this raid was to rebuild much of the eastern sections of the Great Wall with mortar over the following twenty or so years.” [Source: Posted by Jeremy Goldkorn, Danwei.org, October 6, 2009]
The Grand Canal is largest ancient artificial waterway in the world and an engineering marvel on the scale of the Great Wall of China. Begun in 540 B.C. and completed in A.D. 1327, it is 1,107 miles long and has largely been dug by hand by a work force described as a "million people with teaspoons." The world's longest modern canal, the Belomorsko-Baltiyskiy Canal in Russia, is 1,410 miles long.
The Grand Canal was created by connecting a series of smaller canals built in separate areas. It was constructed primarily to move troops from the north to south and transport food from the rich agricultural lands in the south to overpopulated cities and towns in the north. It was also built to allow merchants to avoid transporting their cargoes on the high seas where they were vulnerable to typhoons and pirates.
Construction of the canal has been done in a piecemeal fashion over the centuries, with new sections added and others abandoned and rebuilt. The bulk of the work was done during the Sui dynasty under the leadership of the ruthless emperor Yang Di, who put 5.5 million workers to work during a six year period, ending to 610 A.D. No one knows how may died digging the canals but it was probably in the tens of the thousands. During the height of the Tang dynasty, which followed the Sui Dynasty, long strings of barges carried 100,000 tons of grain a year from the rice fields in the south to the north.
The great Mongol leader Kublai Khan put three million people to work in 1279 to extend the Grand Canal 135 miles to north so that rice could be transported from the fertile Yangtze Delta, near Shanghai, to his new capital, present-day Beijing.
The Grand Canal today extends from Tianjin in the north to Hangzhou in the south. It connects Beijing and Xian in the north with Shanghai in the south, and links four great rivers—the Yellow, the Yangtze, Huai and Qiantang. Water levels are maintained using a system of stone gates which channel water in and out of the canals. When it is necessary to prevent flooding gates are opened so that water can be diverted into lakes.
Good Websites and Sources on the Grand Canal: Wikipedia Wikipedia Travel China Guide (click attractions) Travel China Guide ; Map Encarta Encarta ; Links in this Website: JIANGSU PROVINCE factsanddetails.com
Image Sources: 1) Great Wall, Nolls China website; 2) NASA; 3) Great Wall tower, Nolls China website http://www.paulnoll.com/China/index.html ; 4) Early Great Wall, Ohio State University; 5) Wall attack, University of Washington; 6) Wall-mounting ladder, University of Washington; 7) Great Wall map, Dr. Robert Perrins; 8) Grand Canal. Beifan.com http://www.beifan.com/
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated December 2012