The Great Wall of China


In the year 221 B.C.E., there was a great ruler over the
Ch'in kingdom in China, named Shih Huang Ti. Shih was power
hungry and wanted more land so he gathered his army and
captured the surrounding kingdoms. As the ruler of so many
kingdoms he became "the first emperor" of China. Shih
showed his tyranny when he burned all history books to
insure that his people and future generations would only
remember him and none of the earlier rulers. He had a
strong army but the fierce tribes north of China, the
Mongols and the Huns, were stronger. These nomadic tribes
would come into China and steal crops and animals and then
destroy everything left behind.
 Shih was very disturbed with these invasions, so in the
year 214 B.C.E. he freed prisoners and gathered workers and
herds of animals. He gave all this to Meng T'ien, his loyal
general. Meng and the men and animals were sent north to
fortify Shih's kingdoms from invading armies. Shih planned
to make a great wall by extending and enlarging preexisting
walls made by previous rulers. This "great" wall would
serve as a barricade to keep out all tribes that wanted to
invade China. It also served to separate the civilized acts
of the farmers in China to the barbaric acts of the nomadic
tribes. What Shih did not know was that the construction
would cause many deaths and much suffering to the builders
of the wall. The wall which Meng and his men created had
watchtowers, forty feet tall, every two hundred yards. The
purpose of these towers was to alert the defending soldiers
of approaching, attacking tribes. The soldiers at the
towers signalled to each other by day using smoke signals,
waving flags, blowing horns, and ringing bells; by night by
lighting firework-like objects in the sky. The wall,
itself, was approximately fifteen hundred miles long,
thirty feet high and, at the base, twenty-five feet thick.
It was made of the core of earth and gravel. Actually, it
was two walls aligned with each other and then filled in
with a stone base pounded smooth. The wall traveled over
mountains and through valleys. It went from Liatun, on the
coast near Korea, westward to the northern end on the
Yellow River, southward to Lint'ao to close off the north
west area of the empire from the Huns. The great wall is
sometimes compared to a dragon with its head in the east
and its tail in the west and its winding body. The dragon
in China is considered a protective sacredness rather than
a destructive creature. The top of the wall is
approximately thirteen feet wide so six people riding
horses could ride side by side along the top. On the side
of the wall there are reliefs, which are two- dimensional
figures on the wall. The Great Wall of China took hundreds
of years to be totally completed and constantly maintained.
As a barricade against invading armies it was very
successful at keeping out unwanted people. Unfortunately,
in the year 1215 AD, the Mongols came down, under the rule
of Genghis Khan, and destroyed major parts of the wall. It
took two years of constant fighting, but the Mongols were
successful at breaking through the wall. Also, many years
later, the Manchus, another strong tribe, penetrated the
wall and took over parts of China.
 During the Ming Dynasty( 1368-1644 A.D.), the Great Wall
was repaired by General Xu Da and watchtowers were added by
General Qi Jiguang. Most of what tourists see today was
made by these two generals. During World War II, the Great
Wall was used for the transportation of troops. The Great
Wall is so huge that it is the only man made creation which
can be seen from the moon.
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