After moving the capital from Nanjing to Beijing, the Yongle Emperor ordered that a huge bell be made to commemorate his exploits.
The reason for moving the capital was to consolidate defenses in the north since the Mongols, Manchu and other nomads lived to the north and were a threat to an agricultural culture such as China.
In March of 1418, the master bell makers were called to Beijing. The Yongle Bell was to be 6.94 meters tall (almost 23 feet), 3.3 meters wide at the mouth (almost 11 feet) and weigh 46.5 tons.
Producing such a massive bell even today would be an extraordinary job. The master bell makers used the clay mould casting technique—a method used for three thousand years so the Chinese were experienced.
Since there wasn’t a furnace large enough to melt that much bronze, the bell makers used several furnaces at once — another example of an assembly line.
The bell was poured in one casting, which meant that the furnaces had to be coordinated to poor the molten bronze. To be successful, there could not be one mistake.
Because of the threats to China from northern nomads, the five thousand kilometer long Great Wall had been built as a first line of defense from invasion.
The Great Wall was high, long and solid since it was constructed of massive slabs of stone. Construction had started two thousand years earlier and work had continued up to the Ming Dynasty.
During the twenty-eight years between 1405 and 1433 AD, the fleet commanded by Zheng He made seven voyages to Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and Africa’s east coast.
Ming navigators kept detailed charts and the fleet was never lost while at sea.
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