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Questions on the 'Great Wall of China'


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#166 ThunderzonXT

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 01:50 PM

From what I can gather, The Great Wall isn't very effective, and only act as a warning as the furthest.

My father told me a story once, about how a Emperor wanted to make his mistress happy, so he light the beacons in the Great Wall as a joke, to pull all military towards the wall, turns out, there was no threat so they went to the wall for nothing.

Didn't Genghis Khan completely ignored The Great Wall? lol

#167 Wong Hoong Hooi

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Posted 23 July 2013 - 12:18 AM

From what I can gather, The Great Wall isn't very effective, and only act as a warning as the furthest.

My father told me a story once, about how a Emperor wanted to make his mistress happy, so he light the beacons in the Great Wall as a joke, to pull all military towards the wall, turns out, there was no threat so they went to the wall for nothing.

Didn't Genghis Khan completely ignored The Great Wall? lol

 

The West and those whose views are conditioned by Western sources often ridicule the Great Wall. Examples include:

  • The Great Wall was really useless - What is quoted above is only 1 example of such a view
  • The Great Wall reflected and still reflects a "Middle Kingdom" mentality that is self-important and closed to the outside world. This view is reflected, for example, in the title of the book "The Great Wall and the Empty Fortress"
  • The Great Wall reflects a siege mentality - a variation of the "closed mind" criticism
  • The Great Wall reflected and reflects passivity unlike the "dynamism" of the West 

And the Great Wall with the examples of its supposed failures gets contrasted with the story of the 300 Spartans, which latter is held up as the prime military illustrative example of general Western supremacy over the East.

 

The 300 Spartans at Thermoplylae is, in turn, a prime example of myth blown out of all proportion. This is said without denigrating the courage of those 300 or of the other 3,000 - 5,000 Greeks also actually involved in the stand at Thermoplylae. But this thread is about the Great Wall and my argument is that the Great Wall was a success:

  • The Great Wall was never meant to and could never have stood against a determined and sustained assault by a force large and equpped enough to overwhelm any section of the Wall. So the examples of the Wall being breached by large invasion forces are not examples of its failure.
  • Similarly, like any fortification system ancient and modern, the Great Wall could never have covered all access points. So examples of the Great Wall being bypassed are not examples of its failure.
  • The Great Wall, from its every structure and length, was simply meant to protect the inhabitants living on one side from the marauders on the other side on a day to day basis, requiring the aggressor to muster a large enough force and resources to both breach the wall and deal with any local counterattacking force. It protected the ihhabitants from even large raids.
  • Far from reflecting passitivity, the Great Wall was the active form of defence in that it actively interposed itself between the inhabitants it was meant to protect and the marauders outside
  • The only other likely response to the marauders would have been stationing cavalry in forts that would move to counter incursions. It doesn't take a genius to figure that it is this that would have been the more passive posture. Cavalry movement would have been reactive. By contrast, the Great Wall interposed itself between the marauders and those it was meant to protect 24/ 7/ 365 (of course a different way of reckoning time/ dates was in operation then !!)
  • You could argue that the active form of defence would have been offence i.e. launching search and destroy ops into the other territory so that there wouldn't be enough marauders alive to begin with. If you are a hater, you would say that the Chinese just weren't up to that. But that would have meant a permanent state of war, even if our ancestors had been "up to it". If matching Western military superiorty meant being a war-like race, I think we Chinese would mostly vote to pass, thank you !!  Civilization isn't ultimately about gloating over military prowess.
  • The Great Wall was also a success in other ways.  Technologically, and in engineering terms, you had to know how to build such a wall on such a scale, overcoming the challenges presented at every locale. Administratively, you had to devise the means to man and run such a wall and to finance its maintenance and repair.

In summary, I wouldn't over-hype the success of the Great Wall. But I would be cognisant of the fact that it was in a very real way a success, contrary to the negative treatment it and just about anything regarding China gets in the Western narrative. 

 

 

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