China’s Great Wall

January 24, 2017

Like so much about China, The Great Wall is also the victim of myths that are not always true. Did you know that the history of the Great Wall of China started with fortifications built by various states during the Spring and Autumn (771 – 476 BC) and Warring States (475 – 221 BC) periods? But the best-known and best-preserved sections of The Great Wall was built in the 14th through 17th centuries A.D., during the Ming Dynasty, more than two thousand years later.

If you want to know more about The Great Wall plan a trip to China, or read Peter Hessler’s Country Driving. The first part of this book is about the months he spent driving the length of The Great Wall all the way to Tibet.

In the first 122 pages Peter Hessler rented a Chinese made Jeep Cherokee. In this section, I learned that the Wall was successful most of the time and not the failure historians have claimed it was.

Over a period of several thousand years, the wall failed a couple of times, but served its purpose and offered protection for China’s heartland for centuries. Hessler says that there is no archaeologist in the world that has studied the history of the Great Wall, but he wrote that there are amateur experts, and you will meet a few in his book along with a unique view of rural China.


The Great Wall of China – Unbelievable Secrets & Unknown Facts

The Wall failed when first Genghis and then Kublai Khan unified the Mongol tribes and invaded China in the 13th century, but it didn’t happen overnight. It took sixty years for the Mongols to conquer all of China and then they ruled the country for almost a century before the Han Chinese rose up and drove them out.

The sections of the Great Wall I’ve visited are an hour out of Beijing. The most popular site is at Badaling.  The second choice, Mutianyu, is more dramatic, because this portion of the Great Wall runs along the ridge of a mountain range and you have to hike up a steep slope to reach it or ride a ski lift to the top. Badaling starts in a fortress in a mountain pass, and the wall climbs the slopes from there.

great-wall-consruction-by-dynasty

Smithsonian Magazine reported, “Few cultural landmarks symbolize the sweep of a nation’s history more powerfully than The Great Wall of China. Constructed by a succession of imperial dynasties over more than 2,000 years, the network of barriers, towers and fortifications expanded over the centuries, defining and defending the outer limits of Chinese civilization. At the height of its importance during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), The Great Wall is believed to have extended some 4,000 miles, the distance from New York to Milan.

China’s Great Wall was not built by one country, king, or emperor. The wall was built in sections by the kings of several nations over a period of centuries. Those walls were eventually linked together by China’s first Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, who brutally unified China through bloody conquest into one country with one written language, Mandarin, and many spoken languages.

Then there is the recent Great Wall film starring Matt Damon, a film that explores a mystery centered on the construction of the Great Wall of China. Of course it obvious this story is based on a fantasy. In the film’s trailer, I was hooked by, “What were they trying to keep out?”

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

a1-241-positive-reviews-jan-7-2017_edited-4

Where to Buy

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


On The Great Wall: Part 1 of 3

April 6, 2016

Like so much about China, The Great Wall is also the victim of myths that are not always true. Did you know that the history of the Great Wall of China started when fortifications built by various states during the Spring and Autumn (771 – 476 BC) and Warring States (475 – 221 BC) periods were connected by the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huangdi? But the best-known and best-preserved section of The Great Wall was built in the 14th through 17th centuries A.D., during the Ming Dynasty—more than two thousand years later.

If you want to know more about The Great Wall, I suggest reading Peter Hessler’s Country Driving. The first part of his book is about the months he spent driving the length of The Great Wall all the way to Tibet.

If you watch the video you will discover that before there was one wall, there were many—all built by different kingdoms before China was unified in 221 BC.

Although I enjoyed reading Country Driving, I think that the hundred and twenty-two pages that focus on The Great Wall are the best part.

Before reading Hessler’s book, I wrongly believed, as so many do, that The Great Wall was a failure as a defense against invaders. However, Hessler proves that myth wrong. For the most part, the wall did keep marauders out.

In fact, on page 116 of the paperback, Hessler quotes David Spindler who found evidence that the Ming Great Wall actually worked as a defensive structure.

The Great Wall failed when the unified Mongols invaded China in the 13th century but it didn’t happen overnight. It took sixty years for the Mongols to conquer all of China.

Before Genghis Khan unified the Mongols, there was no unified Mongolia—only nomadic tribes that fought amongst each other and raided into China whenever one or more tribes decided on a whim to go raiding. That is if they could fight their way past The Great Wall guarding China’s heartland.

Hessler points out that no archeologists or historians have studied the history of The Great Wall but there are amateurs that have, both Western and Chinese, and these Great Wall amateur (experts) have discovered original documents written by Ming Dynasty military officers and troops detailing the defense of the wall against nomads intent on raiding into China to loot, rape and steal. According to this information, the wall succeeded more than it failed.

Continued on April 7, 2016 in Part 2

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

A1 on March 13 - 2016 Cover Image with BLurbs to promote novel

Where to Buy

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


China Preserving its History

January 6, 2015

A few years ago, David Frum wrote on his blog (I think he deleted that post or closed his Blog since then) about China’s Early Empires referring to Belknap’s six-volume history of Imperial China. Frum said, “There is no Chinese equivalent of the Parthenon or the Roman Forum, no Pantheon or Coliseum. For all its overpowering continuity, China does not preserve physical remains of the past… He offhandedly mentioned at one point that there remained not a single surviving house or palace from Han China. There are not even ruins.”

David Frum—who was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush—was wrong.

I wrote a three-part series about the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.) tombs discovered in Xuzhou, which was the location of the capital of the Han Dynasty. The tombs, which have not been destroyed or looted, are now tourist attractions. A museum was built to house artifacts that were discovered. One tomb has a living room and a bedroom before the coffin chamber.  Since the tomb was built inside a hollowed-out rock mountain, it survived more than two millennia with evidence of how the Han Dynasty lived more than 2,000 years ago.

And I’ve toured the Ming tombs, and seen the graves of heroes from the Song Dynasty near the West Lake in Hangzhou, south of Shanghai.  Also, let’s not forget that the Grand Canal, which was started five centuries before the birth of Christ, is still in use today.

Then, if you visit Tibet, there’s the Potala Palace, which was first built in 637 AD and is still lived in. Although much of ancient China has vanished, there are still vestiges that equal or surpass what the Roman and Greek civilizations left behind.

Last but not least, there’s the Great Wall and China’s Terra-Cotta Warriors from the first emperor (260-210 BC). I wrote about Qin Shi Huangdi in this post: http://ilookchina.net/tag/the-first-emperor-of-china/

Though the beginning of the Great Wall of China can be traced to the third century B.C., many of the fortifications included in the wall date from hundreds of years earlier, when China was divided into a number of individual kingdoms during the so-called Warring States Period (Beginning between 481 – 403 BC) .

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival

Finalist in Fiction & Literature – Historical Fiction
The National “Best Books 2010” Awards

E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_2013

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


Visiting The Great Wall – Part 2/3

July 24, 2012

In 1999, I visited the The Great Wall for the first time.  We returned to visit a different section in 2008. The second time, I carried a digital camera (a few of those photos appear with this post)

Smithsonian Magazine reported, “Few cultural landmarks symbolize the sweep of a nation’s history more powerfully than the Great Wall of China. Constructed by a succession of imperial dynasties over 2,000 years, the network of barriers, towers and fortifications expanded over the centuries, defining and defending the outer limits of Chinese civilization. At the height of its importance during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), the Great Wall is believed to have extended some 4,000 miles, the distance from New York to Milan.

The sections of the Great Wall we visited are about an hour out of Beijing. The most popular site is at Badaling.  The second choice, Mutianyu, is more dramatic. This portion of the Great Wall runs along the ridge of a mountain range. Badaling, meanwhile, is in a mountain pass.

The best way to reach the Great Wall is by taxi or bus. After you get there, you will discover the usual tourist shops. Since I enjoy haggling, I spend time shopping.

At Badaling, there were camels and horses you could pay a fee to sit on while having your photo taken.

Once you reach Mutianyu, you have a choice—take a few hours to climb the mountain to The Wall or ride a ski lift to the top in fifteen minutes.

China’s Great Wall was not built by one emperor. It was built in segments by the kings of several nations over a period of centuries. In addition, the wall was completed and linked together by China’s first emperor in 221 BC.

When you are on the wall, if you get thirsty or yearn for a snack, there are venders that carried their goods often using horses.

Once you are ready to leave the Great Wall at Mutianyu, the toboggan ride is worth the price.( see the embedded video with this post)

Continued on July 25, 2012 in Visiting The Great Wall – Part 3 or return to 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.

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China


Births and Deaths – Part 2/2

August 13, 2011

The answer to China’s future may be found in Henry Kissinger’s “On China“, when this elder statesman and advisor of many American presidents on foreign policy, wrote, “China does not claim that its contemporary institutions are relevant outside China.”

In fact, history shows the Chinese are willing to do business and trade goods with other countries, but has never demonstrated a desire to rule the world. Most of China’s wars (not rebellions) were fought to secure its borders and/or defend against invaders.

More evidence that points toward China’s future might be when China ruled the oceans during the Ming Dynasty at a time when China was the most technologically advanced nation on the planet and the emperor called its giant fleet home and decided not to colonize, conquer and/or exploit the rest of the earth through conquest as all of the other empires have done that are mentioned in this post, which could have included the Spanish Empire of the 16th to 19th centuries and  World War II’s Imperial Japan and Hitler’s Nazi Germany. (Discover China’s Ancient Armada)

Another sign of the decline of America and an opportunity for China to become the next global empire is the end of the U.S. Shuttle (space) program. Fox news says, China Aiming High in Space as U.S. Shuttle Program Winds Down.

This year, China plans to send a train car-sized module into orbit, which will be the first building block for a Chinese space station with a goal to put men on the moon sometimes after 2010 — the same year the International Space Station is scheduled to close.

The Fox piece says, “China is still far behind the U.S. in space technology and experience, but what it doesn’t lack is a plan or financial resources … One of the biggest advantages of their system is that they have five-year plans so they can develop well ahead,” said Peter Bond, consultant editor for Jane’s Space Systems and Industry. “They are taking a step-by-step approach, taking their time and gradually improving their capabilities. They are putting all the pieces together for a very capable, advanced space industry.”

The Chinese have a history of long term planning.  If you doubt that claim, look at China’s Great Wall and the Grand Canal — both took centuries to build and there is no other project built by man that compares.

Return to or start with Births and Deaths – 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.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.


Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty – Part 2/4

November 26, 2010

Emperor Hongwu wanted to stabilize the country and strengthen Confucian Piety in the family. To achieve this, Hongwu centralized the state’s power and used spies to watch his political rivals and supporters.

Hongwu founded the Jin Yi Wei, the secret spy agency and bodyguard of all the Ming Emperors responsible to watch public officials. Anyone caught talking about rebellion would be arrested.

The worst aspects of Chinese feudalism had Hongwu’s full support.

Before Emperor Hongwu died, he arranged for his oldest grandson to become emperor. To make sure this would happen, he had all potential enemies killed.

However, Hongwu’s grandson did not get the crown. Instead, Hongwu’s fourth son became the next emperor through drastic measures that resulted in many deaths.

Hongwu’s fourth son would become Emperor Yongle (ruled 1402 – 1424).


Mandarin with English subtitles

Emperor Yongle had been sent by his father to guard the north against the nomads and was given the title of King Yan. Due to his success at driving back the Mongols, he had the support of China’s nobility to become emperor.

As Emperor, he reversed his father’s decisions and opened China to world trade. In 1404, Yongle decided to move the capital from Nanjing to Beijing since Beijing was situated in an important strategic position between Mongolia and the plains of northern China — 20 miles from the Great Wall.

Beijing had been the capital of the Yuan and Jin (1115 – 1234) Dynasties. Though Beijing was far from the areas of China with the most population and agriculture along the Yangtze River, Emperor Yongle was still determined to move his capital north.

He wanted to move so he would have more control over China’s northern minorities such as the Mongols and the Manchu.

Before moving from Nanjing, he had Beijing rebuilt with a new palace, The Forbidden City. The materials for this construction came from all over China with most being carried on barges along the Grand Canal, which stretched more than a thousand miles from Beijing to Hangzhou in the south.

Return to Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty – Part 1

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.