During the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1643 AD), China mostly isolated itself from the world by rebuilding the Great Wall and a string of impregnable fortresses to protect China’s heartland from Mongol invasion.
One of those fortresses was a new military city built on the ruins of Tang Chang’ an, and the Ming named this city “Western Peace”—which in Chinese/Mandarin is “Xi’an”.
Xi’an was one-sixth the size of Tang Chang’ an, but nearly six hundred years later, its walls are still standing.
Charles Higham says these walls are the most extraordinary, largest, best-preserved set of defensive walls in the world.
The last segment of Neville Gishford‘s Discovery Channel documentary, China’s Most Honourable City, introduces Zheng Canyang, the engineer responsible for preserving Xi’an’s walls, and Zheng explains how the walls would have been defended.
History records that when the walls of this third city faced its first attack, they stood firm, but the attack did not come during the Ming or Qing Dynasties. It came five hundred years later from April to November 1926.
As China bled from the Civil War between warlords, the CCP and the KMT, a powerful Chinese general by the name of Liu Zhenhua attacked Xi’an with a large army and modern artillery.
However, the 20th century artillery rounds only dented the walls, and after months, Xi’an’s walls still stood and Liu Zhenhua’s army retreated.
The siege was part of an anti-Guominjun campaign lasting from late 1925 to early 1927, which raged across North China and had nothing to do with the civil war between CCP and KMT, explaining why this military campaign received no coverage in the popular media or academic circles. Source: A Study of the Siege of Xi’an and its Historical Significance by Kingsley Tsang
The newest enemy to Xi’an’s ancient walls comes from modernization and the millions of inhabitants of the city. As the water table below the city is sucked dry from so many people, this has caused the earth to sink, which is pulling down the walls, and engineers and scientists work to discover ways to save them.
This link to Xi’an will take you to the photo page on my Website of our trip there in 2008.
Return to Xi’an (Chang’ an) – China’s Ancient Capital – Part 4 or start with Part 1
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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