Main Page and Map | Links | Contact



P'an Ku laboured and brought forth the world and as he worked:
His breath became the wind and the clouds;
His voice became the thunder;
His veins the rivers;
His flesh the earth;
His hair the grass and trees;
His bones the metals;
His sweat the rain;
And the insects that clung to his body became the human race.

China has been called "the paradise of historians," for the Chinese have an abiding interest in history. Little wonder since its saga is long and lustrus, stretching back to 3000 BC. We are warned, however, that history harkening back before 776 BC should carry a caution, for across so many lengthy lifetimes, truth about the times and the tales could well be called into question.

The great Confucius stressed the importance of history in promoting reverence for the past and respect for examples set by ancestors. While we are warned that his historical writing was not always reliable, for he embellished his accounts with anything that took his fancy, his prestige as a person lent history lustre. Records of past events are held in high significance and the many who maintained memos of it were thought to be communicating with the divine order. Temples had their archivists and the imperial court its official record-keepers, all of whom kept lengthy logs of the various events that occurred duing their times.

Nevertheless, it should be understood that record-keeping is not history. Although it was wise and very worthwhile to keep track of the times, it is not art. While there is a close and clear connection between the archivist and the historian, systematic research is not the only characteristic of historiography. History requires the results of inquiry to be rendered into connected historical prose, i.e. narrative is needed.

History is a kind of monument, a marker set down against the oblivion with which time threatens all human deeds.

The Great Wall

Speaking of monuments, China has many mighty wonders to behold, but none shouts and touts about this colossal land like the Great Wall. This sinewy serpent, which was meant to be the chief armour of the country, curls and contorts itself through mountainous wilds, stretching at least 2000 miles across the country, the gigantic creation adorned at intervals with massive, Assyrian-style gateways. The Great Wall was not meant to be a purely defensive fortification; its towers functioned rather as a series of lit beacons and signalling stations to allow rapid warning to friendly units of advancing enemy troops.

Its construction was begun in the 7th and 8th centuries BC. During this period over 2000 years, more than 20 dukes or princes and feudal dynasties contributed ot the building. It was listed as one of the world's cultural heritages by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1987.

The largest structure ever built by man, it dwarfs his other creations. Beside it, said Voltaire, "The pyramids of Egypt are only puerile and useless masses."

Wall of China

Begun in the 7th Century BC, when China was still divided into many small, warring states, successive dynasties srambled to protect themselves from each other and marauding nomads. This resulted in patchy portions, a motely mixture of northern borders, until at the command of the first founder of unified China, Qin She-huang, these 'floating' fortifications were formed into the single rampart. Estimated to be 2,000 mi. long, it stands 26 feet high and 30 feet wide at its base.

It took the blood, sweat and tears of countless men to construct. Some put the total at well over a million, with some 400,000 thousand dying along the way. Legend holds that many of these were entombed within the wall. Poignant tales are told of the cruel fate of families torn apart by brutality of its builders. It is said that 300,000 of its workers were serving a sentence, for convicts and contrary thinkers were ordered to toil in terrible conditions. Because of its terrible toll in human lives, it ruined, say the Chinese, one generation, but became the salvation of many.

Behind some parts of the Wall deemed of critical importance, fortified garrisons were constructed. Soldiers were assigned rotatating tours of duty. They were even granted land around the garrisons and encouraged to marry so as to ensure soldier-farmers were never far from the front-line forts.

Winding Wall of China

Looking for lands to plunder, the Tartars, (Tatars) mostly Muslim and Turkic tribes inhabiting parts of Siberia, Crimea and districts along the Volga, chose China to invade. Members of the mingled host of Central Asia, under the leadership of Genghis Khan in 1211, overran and devastated much of Asia and Europe.

While the Wall did not deter all the wild ones, it delayed and reduced their attacks. It is claimed as a result, that the Huns, barred for a time from entering Chinese soil and so seeking easier prey, moved west into Europe and down into Italy. Perhaps because of the Wall was in their way, the barbarians overran Rome, leading to the faster fall of that Great Empire.

Some Tartars did tarry, made it over the Wall and poured down into China, conquering large areas of the north. Just as they plunged Europe into the dark ages for a hundred years, so too, the Tartars took a toll on China, disordering life there for some time.

The vast majority of the brick and stone Great Wall as it is seen today is a product of the Ming Dynasty. Though the Ming dynasty's power was great, it eventually fell. The most significant moment in the entire history of the Wall, occurred on a spring morning in 1644, when Manchu horsemen galloped through the undefended First Gate at Shanhaiguan and sealed the fate and downfall of the Ming Dynasty. The legendary brick, stone and earthen Great Wall was of no impediment to these northern people, who came as conquerors. As with the other dynasties, rebellion broke out against wide-spread corruption and the combined effect of this and the attack of the Manchu from Manchuria, resulted in the fall of the Ming dynasty. The Manchus took over and formed the Qing dynasty. Work on the wall continued until the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, which for a century and a half under three emperors, grew in wealth and territory.

The "Ten Thousand Li Wall" failed its function and parts of it began to fall into disrepair and insignificance. During the Cultural Revolution, peasants living nearby these sections, carried away bricks to build their homes. Pride has now replaced pilfering, so the younger generations of Chinese can view and venerate the Great Wall stretching into the distance, its watchtowers once bristling with different dynasties.

Wall Watchtower at Badaling

As a defensive measure, was the Wall worth its price in lives and loot? For the first 500 years, it largely worked and withheld both sand and the hit-and-run tactics of nomadic horsemen. One can only imagine their amazement, when these nomads rode out of the wilderness and were confronted by this behemoth barricade.

Intended originally to keep foreigners out, the Great Wall is now the focus of folk from around the planet, who flock to view the marvels of this must-see rampart made by many men with no machines. Its magnificence and splendour attract an ever-growing number of tourists. There are numerous sights to be seen of the Great Wall, the most accessible being just an hour away from Beijing's centre. Other out-of-the-way sections require travel over rugged terrain, but the toil and trouble are worth it, for venturing further afield affords one more rugged beauty, more breathtaking views and far fewer folk to frustrate. These parts of the Wall were purposely positioned in almost inaccessible locations. Defying the difficulties presented by the natural terrain, someone simply said, "Put it there," and the untold thousands carried out the back-breaking work to make it happen.

I walked the Wall
photo by

Wandering on the Wall with the World
photo by
G. Wilson

Great Wall at Badaling

Gate of Great Wall at Badaling
photo by

A large sign proclaims unabashedly that: "The Great Wall is one of the greatest wonders in the world, also it is the most magnificent architecture and the greatest military defences in ancient China."

photo by

A Perfect Picture
photo by

Badaling is northwest of Peking. It is the crown of the entire Great Wall, which rises and falls across the mountains, disappearing behind one peak only to re-appear before another.

View of the Great Wall from Badaling
photo by

Seeming to stretch into the distance forever, its grandeur was glorious to contemplate. Mao's challenge meets and greets all tourists taking a hike on this highway

"If a man fails to climb to the top of the Wall, he is not a real man."


photo by
G. Wilson

photo by
G. Wilson

"The stream is cold and the wind like a sword,"
wrote Tang poet Wang Chnangling.

Old battles, waged by these long walls,
Once were proud on all men's tongues.
But antiquity now is yellow dust,
Confusing in the grasses its ruins and white bones.

Wondrous Wall

Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square is considered the most likely place tourists first visit, for it is the ultimate symbol of modern China and its capital Beijing. On 1 October, 1949, the founding of the People's Republic of China was solemnly proclaimed here by Mao Zedong and hundreds of thousands of Red Guards crowded into the square chanting Mao's name and waving his Little Red Book.

Tiananmen Square from the Air- largest city square in the world.

In the centre: the tall Monument of the People's Heroes
This side of it: Chairman Mao's Memorial Hall
On the right: Great Hall of the People
On the left: Museaum of Chinese History and Museum of Chinese Revolution

Chairman Mao Memorial Hall - Mao's Tomb
photo by
G. Wilson

The Great Hall of the People

Museum of Chinese History an Museum of Chinese Revolution.

Panoramic View of South Gate to Imperial City

This centre of today's People's Republic is a major must-see in Peking. This large plaza near the center of Beijing, China is named after the Tiananmen, meaning literally, Gate of Heavenly Peace, which is located to its north, separating it from the Forbidden City.. It has great cultural significance as it was the site of several key events in Chinese history. Initially built in the 18th year (1420) of Emperor Yongle's reign in the Ming Dynasty, the Gate of Heavenly Peace was the south gate to the Imperial City. The square serves as the site of grand assemblies on important and festive occasions.

Off to see the Imperial City
photo by

In the background from the Gate of Heavenly Peace, Mao gazes benignly and benevolently across the square, his rigid and often raucous reputation inspiring both love and hate among the Chinese. Their assessment of him, according to one source, is that Mao was 70% correct and 30% incorrect.

The place has both positive and negative connotations for tourists. Young protesters assembled there in 1919 in what is called the May Fourth Movement. It proved Chinese youth can practise patriotic dissent. The practice caught on for in June 1989, the same scene was one of tragedy, when hundreds of student demonstrators were killed by troops breaking up their pro-democracy protest. They were mowed down for their madness. One very brave soul confronted the tanks and survived. His name and fate are unknown, but he astounded the world and the country's communist leaders, when he showed that courage can still come from Chinese youth.

Taunting the Tanks

Today peace greets the people who pack the great square, their number including undercover policemen who monitor and manage the crowds. As each morning an honour guard raises the Chinese flag, visitors view the wonder of it all including the tallest monument in China.

This Monument to the Peoples' Heroes, a 125-foot granite obelisk, commemorates those who died for the revolutionary cause of the Chinese people.

Monument of the People's Heroes
photo by

Terracotta Warriors

Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi's 8000 terracotta warriors and their horses are honoured as the
"8th Wonder of the World."

Heroes with Feet of Clay
photo by
G. Wilson

Centuries have been brushed away to reveal a most spectacular find - a three-acre site in which a terracotta corps was assembled to guard the grave of China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi. Entombed for 22 centuries, the 8,000 unearthed, life-size warriors were arranged according to rank and duty and were buried in battle formation with real war chariots and weapons of wood and bronze.

Qin Shi Huangdi, who made himself into a god-like emperor, had a mania for major engineering projects and this combinatiion of complaints left high levels of public unrest. When he died from mercury poisoning in a failed attempt to make himself immortal, his son was soon overthrown, along with his honour guard of ghosty soldiers.

It was not long before looters sought to find and filtch the enormous cache of valuables buried with the battalions. Despite the booby-trapped automatic crossbows Qin had quckly installed to protect his heavenly haven, looters entered and emptied many of the precious materials and in the process, set fire to the vault beams. These came crashing down on the motionless men, hiding them from history until they were discovered by some farmers outstanding in their fields.

To protect the solid soldiers in the three large burial pits from the elements, the Museum of Qin Shihuang's Terracotta Warriors & Horses was built.

Museum of Qin Shihuang's Terracotta Warriors & Horses
photo by
G. Wilson

Top Left: Armoured Infantrymen;
Top Right: Part of Battle Formation;
Bottom Left: Chariot Garage
Bottom Right: Part of Battle Formation

More Terracottas Unearthed from Terra Firma

Restoration Under Way
photo by
G. Wilson

And finally the facial features!

The clay soldiers are painstakingly detailed, down to the last rivet of an archer's armour. Each head is individually modeled, some think to represent the various peoples Quin Shi Huangdi welded with sword and fire into one nation.

Today the ghostly imperial guard is being restored and returned to its post in the largest of three pits, where charioteers, horses, archers, spearmen and officers muster once more for an astounded public to peruse. Much work remains to be done to restore the regiments to their original positions and so preserve for posterity this wonder of the ages.


Copyright © 2013 Website Administrator