The Great Wall Essay

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.

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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

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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