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.

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On The Great Wall: Part 3 of 3

April 8, 2016

 

On our way back to Beijing from The Great Wall at Mutianyu, our driver stopped at a factory-showroom where we learned about the manufacturing techniques for Cloisonné brass vases.

I’ve read some tourists/expatriates complain about these stops, but I enjoy window shopping and this was something new—sometimes I even buy stuff.  In this case, I bought three vases (photos included).

First, we went on a tour where we watched men and women creating these vases. Once the tour was over, we went to the showroom.

The vases I bought (after negotiating the price) are yellow with a blue trim.  One has a blue dragon on it, the second a phoenix beside a chariot, and the third running horses. Each one is about the size of my hand but larger around.

The cloisonné process is enamel on copper craftwork. It first appeared in Beijing in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and continued during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Cloisonné vases are crafted by using a copper porcelain process. The vase is made from copper with brass wires soldered to the body. Then a porcelain glaze is applied to cells between the brass wires.

After a series of complex procedures, such as burning, burnishing and gilding, the cloisonné vase is done. Chinese name: 景泰蓝(jǐng tài lán)

Return to Part 2 or start with Part 1

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.

IMAGE with Blurbs and Awards to use on Twitter

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On the Great Wall: Part 2 of 3

April 7, 2016

In 1999, we visited The Great Wall at Badaling.  We returned to visit a different section in 2008. The second time, I carried a digital camera (a few of the 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.  I think the second choice, Mutianyu, is more dramatic. This portion of The Great Wall runs along the ridge of a mountain range. Badaling, meanwhile, starts in a mountain pass fortress.

The best way to reach The Great Wall is by taxi or bus. After you get there, you’ll discover the usual tourist shops. Since I enjoy haggling, I spent 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 mountainside  to The Great 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. Those walls were eventually 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 vendors that carried their goods up the mountain 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 April 8, 2016 in Part 3 or start with Part 1

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.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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Seven Wonders of China (3/5)

August 10, 2010

The Great Wall of China was not built by one man, one king or emperor but is a product the collective effort of the Chinese people over centuries.  The Great Wall united the country in its construction and still unites the Chinese today as a symbol of pride.

4. Leshan Buddha

Everything about this Buddha is BIG. More than a thousand years old, it took almost a century to carve the Leshan Buddha from the solid rock cliff. The Buddha looks out over a river and legend says the rugged, unpredictable river sunk many boats drowning people until the Buddha was carved from the cliff.

It is thought that the rocks cut from the cliff while the Buddha was being constructed tumbled into the river and calmed the currents.  However, today, air pollution as in acid rain from industry is threatening the Buddha. Maintaining the Buddha has become a challenge. About two million people visit each year.

5. Mount Wudang

To the Chinese, Mt. Wudang is the first mountain under heaven. Ornate palaces may be found on the mountains slopes.  Temples, pavilions and bridges are all designed to harmonize with the landscape.  This mountain is also the home of Wudang Kung Fu.  A martial art that is still active today after seven hundred years.  In Chinese terms, Wudang is a small town of 20,000 people that is a fascinating mix of tradition and modernity.

See The Prince’s Garden or return to The Seven Wonders of China – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine SagaWhen 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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