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 figure!s 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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