The Great Wall: China Against the World, 1000 BC - 2000 AD

The Great Wall: China Against the World, 1000 BC - 2000 AD

Julia Lovell

Language: English

Pages: 432

ISBN: 0802118143

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A new and important history of the epic story of the Great Wall of China that guides the reader through the conquests and cataclysms of the Chinese empire, from the second millennium BC the present day. Over 2,200 years old and 4,300 miles long, the Great Wall of China has made an overwhelmingly confident physical statement about the country it spans: about China’s age-old sense of being an advanced civilization anxious to draw a clear line between itself and the “barbarians” at its borders. But behind the wall’s intimidating exterior — and the myths that have clustered around it — is a complex history that has both defined and undermined China. It is this history that Julia Lovell explores in her enthralling book. The Great Wall is an epic tale that stretches over two millennia as it follows the rise and fall of the great Chinese ruling dynasties. Full of astonishing details and extraordinary characters — from emperors to engineers, statesmen to soldiers — this is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand China’s past, present, and future.

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were anxious to emphasize certain racial distinctions – between those north and south of the former barrier – as a way of imposing their authority, as foreign conquerors, over the vanquished Chinese. This was done in two ways. First, by coercion: the Qianlong emperor, in the late eighteenth century, systematically censored and destroyed all writings, both ancient and modern, in which ‘barbarians’ were criticized, while all Chinese after 1645 were compelled, on pain of death, to adopt the Manchu

1959), PP. 1–95 – ‘Sino-Mongol Relations during the Ming, II. The Tribute System and Diplomatic Missions (1400–1600)’, Mélanges Chinois etBouddhiques, 14 (1969) – ‘Sino-Mongol Relations during the Ming, III. Trade Relations: The Horse Fairs (1499–1600)’, Melanges Chinois et Bouddhiques, 18 (1975) – ‘Towers in the Northern Frontier Defenses of the Ming’, Ming Studies, 14 (Spring 1982), pp. 8–76 Spence, Jonathan D., and Wills, John E. (eds.), From Ming to Qing: Conquest, Region, and Continuity

arrived, however, she discovered that he had already died of cold and exhaustion. Her sobs caused the wall to open up and reveal his bones, along with those of thousands of other workmen, which she reburied before hurling herself – a chaste and virtuous Chinese widow – into the sea. Another account has it that the lecherous Qin emperor, who happened to be passing by on a tour of inspection, was so taken by her that he tried to make her his concubine, before she escaped his advances by suicide.

Dingshi’. In places 2.5 metres thick and almost two metres high, its true elevation obscured by ‘drift sand’, several metres deep, ‘which the winds had heaped up against it’, the wall was bolstered every few kilometres by watchtowers set behind it, sometimes eleven metres square and almost seven metres high. As darkness fell, after some sixteen kilometres hiking along the wall line, Stein bagged his last ruin of the day, a large tampedearth tower, a little eroded on its top layers to present ‘the

abnormally cold winter, during which ‘many sheep and horses died of starvation, and the people felt a scarcity’.4 A year later, the Turks’ troubles worsened when a rift opened between Xieli and his immediate subordinate, Tuli. One of Taizong’s advisers, noticing that Xieli had moved troops to the frontier – presumably with a view to launching raids to ease the hardships of his people – suggested rebuilding and manning long walls. The emperor was not in favour: One of the romanticized views of

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