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Great Wall of China
From: Encyclopedia of China: The Essential Reference to China, Its History and Culture.

Also known as the Wall of 10,000 Li (Wanli Chang Cheng; a li is a measure of distance); a series of walls constructed across northern and western China to protect the Chinese Empire from invasions by nomadic tribes. Historians have proven that the existence of a single, continuous "Great Wall" that was built all at once is actually a myth. Many walls, even ones with double or triple sections, had been erected across parts of northern China beginning in the seventh century BCE. Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi (259–210 BCE), who unified China under the Qin dynasty (221–206 BCE), was believed to have constructed the Great Wall, and it is true that during his reign, fortification walls that had been built earlier by various warring states were connected to form a wall about 1,650 miles long. This was done by vast armies of workers conscripted as corvée labor, a form of government service in which men were required to work on projects for a certain period of time each year. There are actually four long walls that were rebuilt or extended, mainly during the Western Han (206 BCE–CE 9), Sui (581–618), Jin (1115–1234) and Ming (1368–1644) dynasties. The extensive wall system with hundreds of watchtowers that can be seen today was built with brick and stone by corvée labor in the 16th century during the Ming dynasty. The Ming continuously renovated the Great Wall. The Great Wall was not always able to keep out the nomadic invaders, but it did serve as a psychological dividing line for the Ming Chinese, supposedly keeping them inside the empire and the nomads outside it. Earlier dynasties had not just tried to shut the nomads out but had sought to blunt the threats they posed by engaging in trade, diplomacy and warfare. The Han dynasty, especially under Emperor Wudi (Wu-ti; r. 141–87 BCE), waged many military campaigns against the Xiongnu tribes to the north, gained control of much of Central Asia, and extended the Great Wall to the west through Gansu Province to the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region to maintain the safety of the trade route known as the Silk Road. The entire Great Wall complex was divided into nine commands that reported to the Ministry of Defense and were directly responsible to the emperor. When a garrison, stationed near the wall, noticed movements by enemy troops, it notified the nearest watchtower by smoke signals or fires, and the alarm was passed along all the watchtowers within the region of the command. Between its farthest extremities, the Great Wall today stretches more than 4,000 miles from Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China to the desert region of Gansu Province in the northwest. The total combined length of all the walls that have been built is about 31,000 miles. North of the Great Wall lies the Mongolian Plateau, known as the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (Nei Menggu). The western terminus of the wall is the massive, thick-walled Jiayu Fort at Jiayuguan Pass ("the Pass of the Pleasant Valley") in Gansu, built during the Han dynasty. The Chinese called the fort "the mouth," and those who passed through it were "outside the mouth," that is, outside imperial protection. The fort was also known as the "Jade Gate" and its last door was poetically called the "Gate of Sighs." At the eastern end of the wall, Shanhaiguan Pass, 20 miles from Beidaihe and 200 miles from Beijing on the border between Hebei and Liaoning
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the second Ming emperor.com/activelink2. 2012). Its History and Culture. but the present structure dates back to 1639. How to Cite Return to Top Record URL: http://www. Ancient and Medieval History Online. Inc. New York: Facts On File. The Great Wall lost its importance during the Qing because the Manchus attempted to maintain harmonious relations with other tribes on the northern steppes. Facts On File.Facts On File: Ancient and Medieval History Online 4/28/12 9:56 AM Provinces near the sea. which burned down in 1702. was the most important pass. had built Beijing as their capital. the Qing (1644–1911).com/activelink2. Dorothy. and Ming General Wu Sangui. The Mongols. made the mistake of letting the Manchus come through to help him suppress the rebellion. who ruled China under the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368). Within the gates is a marble terrace from 1345 known as Yuntai ("Cloud Terrace"). http://www.fofweb.com/NuHistory/MainPrintPage. stationed at Shanhaiguan Pass at the Great Wall. 1998. However. about 40 miles away. It controlled the traffic between the northern and northeastern regions of China. Juyong Pass. Recently the China Great Wall Society has conducted archaeological and historical research on the wall. For many centuries this pass was the site of heavy fighting between the Chinese and nomadic tribes invading from the north. "Great Wall of China. They quickly took over Beijing.fofweb. Today the pass is well known for its complex of gates dating from the 14th century. all that remains of Tai'an Temple.fofweb. named Yaguan. Inc.asp? ItemID=WE49&iPin=china00833&SingleRecord=True http://www..asp?ItemID=WE49&iPin=china00833&DataType=Ancient&WinType=Free Page 2 of 2 .asp? ItemID=WE49&iPin=china00833&SingleRecord=True (accessed April 28. Yongle. After the Ming defeated the Mongols. Most visitors to the capital city of Beijing visit the section of the Great Wall at Badaling. moved his court from Nanjing to Beijing to be near the Great Wall as a defense against other tribes who were threatening from the north. had been of great strategic importance as the checkpoint for entrance to Beijing from the north. overthrew the Ming and established their own dynasty. about 60 miles to the north. The first gate. Text Citation: Perkins. had been erected there in 618. In 1987 UNESCO placed the Great Wall on its list of the world's great national and historical sites. which was repaired in 1957 and is wide enough for 5 horsemen or 10 men to march abreast. the Great Wall has remained one of China's most important and world-renowned symbols." Encyclopedia of China: The Essential Reference to China. In 1644 the Ming fell to the Manchus when a rebellion led by Li Zicheng threatened the capital.

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