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How did the Mongols penetrate the great wall?


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#1 mohistManiac

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 11:13 AM

Assuming that they didn't want to go around since it was too long of a journey and went right ahead to crossing the wall how was it actually done? Did they use explosives, grappling hooks, ladders, build their own ramp up towards the wall, catapult the wall to pieces. I assume the plan was to go at night when everyone in the watchtowers were drowsy and then silent scale the wall and catch the guards by surprise so that they don't send off any smoke signals. Would they have also employed strategies of deception such as feigning attacks so that troops were forced to locate to false alarm areas while the main force moved cautiously to the real junction where the serious attack would take place. Regardless of strategy though the basic thing to overcome would still be the physical obstacle of the wall.
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#2 chinooook

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 01:54 PM

Assuming that they didn't want to go around since it was too long of a journey and went right ahead to crossing the wall how was it actually done? Did they use explosives, grappling hooks, ladders, build their own ramp up towards the wall, catapult the wall to pieces. I assume the plan was to go at night when everyone in the watchtowers were drowsy and then silent scale the wall and catch the guards by surprise so that they don't send off any smoke signals. Would they have also employed strategies of deception such as feigning attacks so that troops were forced to locate to false alarm areas while the main force moved cautiously to the real junction where the serious attack would take place. Regardless of strategy though the basic thing to overcome would still be the physical obstacle of the wall.


Which wall are you talking about? The Ming wall was not built, the Han/Qin walls were very old and not a great barrier.

As far as I know the mongols entered Ningxia through Sanguankou. Did the Xixia maintain any wall there? The Qin remains in that area are not a strong barrier when not guarded.


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#3 Honam

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 03:03 PM

Assuming that they didn't want to go around since it was too long of a journey and went right ahead to crossing the wall how was it actually done? Did they use explosives, grappling hooks, ladders, build their own ramp up towards the wall, catapult the wall to pieces. I assume the plan was to go at night when everyone in the watchtowers were drowsy and then silent scale the wall and catch the guards by surprise so that they don't send off any smoke signals. Would they have also employed strategies of deception such as feigning attacks so that troops were forced to locate to false alarm areas while the main force moved cautiously to the real junction where the serious attack would take place. Regardless of strategy though the basic thing to overcome would still be the physical obstacle of the wall.


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#4 Tibet Libre

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 05:46 PM

They did not need to penetrate any wall, simple as that. The walls of the Qin and Han dynasty, mostly earth embankments built of rammed earth, had already long decayed.

Prior to the Ming wall, there was only a single border wall constructed of masonry in whole Eurasia, and this was the 110 km+ long Hadrian's Wall protecting Roman Britannia from the barbarian tribes of the Scottish highlands.

#5 Tibet Libre

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 05:57 PM

double post

Edited by Tibet Libre, 16 February 2010 - 05:58 PM.


#6 mohistManiac

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Posted 16 February 2010 - 10:06 PM

Which wall are you talking about? The Ming wall was not built, the Han/Qin walls were very old and not a great barrier.

As far as I know the mongols entered Ningxia through Sanguankou. Did the Xixia maintain any wall there? The Qin remains in that area are not a strong barrier when not guarded.


-chinoook


Not any particular wall. Just trying to see if Mongols had chosen to scale the walls rather than go around it what kinds of methods had they employed? And speaking of the Ming wall wasn't that built so that there could be security against future Mongol strikes?
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#7 chinooook

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 12:38 AM

Not any particular wall. Just trying to see if Mongols had chosen to scale the walls rather than go around it what kinds of methods had they employed? And speaking of the Ming wall wasn't that built so that there could be security against future Mongol strikes?


There had not been any intact wall at the time and it was no problem to cross the line of it. There was no method neccessary. Security against Mongol strikes was mainly garanteed by city walls. Ningxia (about todays Yinchuan) has been sieged by the Mongols and finally was conquered.
There was no large-scale defense at the times the Mongols entered China since China was busy with internal problems.


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#8 chinooook

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 12:48 AM

They did not need to penetrate any wall, simple as that. The walls of the Qin and Han dynasty, mostly earth embankments built of rammed earth, had already long decayed.


The Han and Qin walls are at least at some places intact even today. Maintained they maybe could have served as a frontier fortification.
About half of their length Han and Qin walls are made of stone ...

Prior to the Ming wall, there was only a single border wall constructed of masonry in whole Eurasia, and this was the 110 km+ long Hadrian's Wall protecting Roman Britannia from the barbarian tribes of the Scottish highlands.


False. There was the Antonine Wall (20km north of Hadrian's Wall), there was the Limes Germanicus (about 700km), there were all other Roman frontier walls (many hundred km). There was the Wall of Gorgon in today's Iran (about 170km), there is Offa's Dyke between England and Wales (280km), there where some walls in the Middle East. And all the earlier Chinese Great Walls ...
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#9 Tibet Libre

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 06:34 AM

The Han and Qin walls are at least at some places intact even today. Maintained they maybe could have served as a frontier fortification.
About half of their length Han and Qin walls are made of stone ...


Simply untrue. Waldron addresses the "problem of the great wall" of the early dynasties, or rather their non-existence today, with greatest clarity:

Our historical imaginations are inevitably affected by the abundance of images of the Ming Wall, and in particular of the superb but atypical stretch at Chii-yung-kuan, near peking. It it therefore important to remember that the fortifications built by earlier dynasties bore little resemblance to it. They were, as far as we can determine, ramparts of earth, and today peasants give their remains such names as "earth dragon." They were built quickly: one passage tells that a man could build such a rampart eighteen feet long in a month. The Han walls that Stein found in western Kansu were composed of' layers of bundled twigs, six or so inches thick, alternated with thinner layers of coarse clay or gravel.

Although pounded or layered earth was the commonest building material, stones were used as well, for example in the wall north of Chang-chia-k'ou that is said to be of Ch'in date. Walls were built in a season or two by troops or corvee labor. They eroded easily. In Han times, one objection raised to giving up border defense in return for peace with the Hsiung-nu was that the fortifications would decay without maintenance. In the early Ming, walls built of earth in the traditional way disappeared in a few decades and had to be rebuilt. The walls visited today, by contrast, required years for the building of even relatively short stretches. Not surprisingly, then, few remains of early walls survive (though some, even mud brick, have lasted), and there are few mentions of such ruins in the written record.

Arthur N. Waldron: The Problem of The Great Wall of China, Havard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 43, No. 2. (Dec., 1983), pp. 643-663 (664f.)


It should be added that the stone wall which Waldron mentions was probably 'only' a dry stone wall, that is layers of unhewn stone without any binder (I have seen pictures of this section). Walls in Ming fashion, that is constructed with fired brick, were totally absent in Han and Qin border fortifications.

False. There was the Antonine Wall (20km north of Hadrian's Wall), there was the Limes Germanicus (about 700km), there were all other Roman frontier walls (many hundred km). There was the Wall of Gorgon in today's Iran (about 170km), there is Offa's Dyke between England and Wales (280km), there where some walls in the Middle East. And all the earlier Chinese Great Walls ...


There were many border walls, even dating back to Sumerian times, but the Roman Hadrian Wall was the only to be constructed from masonry, that is ashlar blocks or fired brick. Perhaps the idea had even spread to China by the time of the Ming...

#10 chinooook

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 07:17 AM

Simply untrue. Waldron addresses the "problem of the great wall" of the early dynasties, or rather their non-existence today, with greatest clarity:
[...]

It should be added that the stone wall which Waldron mentions was probably 'only' a dry stone wall, that is layers of unhewn stone without any binder (I have seen pictures of this section). Walls in Ming fashion, that is constructed with fired brick, were totally absent in Han and Qin border fortifications.


Simply untrue. There is Qin wall which up to today shows binder. At least the Qin walls I discovered and visited. It is true that there are sections which seem (I myself did not inspect them yet) to be built of drystones without binder but I doubt that. True is that the stones are unhewn, probably to the lack of steel tools. True to my knowledge is also that there are no fired bricks used. The Han used adobe at least for tower construction.
At least the walls of Bei Qi and Chu and Zhongshanguo used stones as well and fired bricks also (still visible f.e. at Gubeikou, where the pretty good state might be because they were maintained by the Ming).

one passage tells that a man could build such a rampart eighteen feet long in a month

Even this is untrue for long sections of the Han wall. At Shandan the Han wall (just some feet beside the Ming wall) was about of the double volume then the Ming wall (at least 6m wide at the base, at least 6m high). The Qin wall (rammed earth) at Guyuan is about 12m high and had a base of about 15m wide. This is by far the most massive antique wall I know. It is assumed that one person can move 1m³ a day, the Han wall consists of (at least)18m³ each running meter, thus 18 feet would be about 108m³, thrice as much as one person could build.
The Qin used stones to build walls at places the Ming only used rammed earth (around Sanguankou, Ningxia). The tower volume of Qin walls is about everywhere much higher and more massive than that of the Ming walls ...

Most(non Chinese) texts about the GW are written by people who did not visit many sections of it. So bad information is copied and copied again. Personal investigation very often reveals totally different facts. I myself travelled (walked!) more than half of the length of the Ming wall between Jiayuguan and Shanhaiguan, I discovered and visited _many_ sections of Han and Qin walls (and Jin and Zhao and Bei Qi walls as well).


-chinoook

Edited by chinooook, 17 February 2010 - 07:26 AM.

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#11 Tibet Libre

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 07:38 AM

Sorry, but I take Waldron's words in a peer-reviewed scientific journal above yours. Waldron's observation is also supported by the many superb illustrations of pre-Ming boder walls in Dan Schwartz: The Great Wall of China, Thanes & Hudson, London 2001, ISBN 0-500-54243-0. These uniformly show remains of pounded earth ramparts, and the occasional section made of dry stone walls or mudbrick. No sign of fired brick walls there.

In short, the reason why the Mongols were not stopped by the Great Wall was that it effectively had long ceased to exist due to the ephemeral condition of its main building material, that is rammed earth.

#12 chinooook

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 08:01 AM

Sorry, but I take Waldron's words in a peer-reviewed scientific journal above yours. Waldron's observation is also supported by the many superb illustrations of pre-Ming boder walls in Dan Schwartz: The Great Wall of China, Thanes & Hudson, London 2001, ISBN 0-500-54243-0. These uniformly show remains of pounded earth ramparts, and the occasional section made of dry stone walls or mudbrick. No sign of fired brick walls there.


You may follow whomever and whatever opinion you like. I rather believe my own investigations (at least for the placecs which hat not been visited by any author before), especcialy because of the frequent errors in most publications (even in Waldrons articles).
Daniel Schwartz did not take photos of Bei Qi GW at Gubeikou nor of Chu and Zhongshanguo walls. The walls he took photos from are Zhao (there are even Zhao guo walls built of stones, a photo in Luo Zhewen et. al. "Spanning the ages"), Jin, Qin and Han walls. The Qin walls he photographed are solid stone walls, all other photos show only earthen walls. Fired brick wall of pre-Ming I only know the stated (and well known) Gubeikou Bei Qi section. In east Hebei Bei Qi walls made of drystones occur. I will check in septembre wether they show signs of binding.

Posted Image
Bei Qi Great Wall at Gubeikou.

You might want to have a look at stone made Qin walls with bindings in the Great Wall Forum.
You also find photos from me of some of them even in this forum. One example:

Posted Image
Here you can see some binding between the slate stones.

Posted Image
Qin GW at Sanguankou, showing intact binding.

Posted Image
Qin GW at Sanguankou, photo from last novembre.

All wall builders had to be opportunists to use the material local available. In the desert and loess plateau sections it was rammed earth, in the mountains in the eastern sections (Shanxi, Hebei, Liaoning) all of them used stones. As already stated the Qin took more effort to collect and gather stones for wall and tower building than the Ming and the overall effort Qin and Han made to build walls was much higher than that of the Ming, obvious everywhere where the walls run parallel.

In short, the reason why the Mongols were not stopped by the Great Wall was that it effectively had long ceased to exist due to the ephemeral condition of its main building material, that is rammed earth.


I again disagree. The main reason the walls did not keep the Mongols out was because they were not being maintained at the time. The Qin walls had not been a barrier (and about all walls had not been) if not maintained. Many of them are easy to scale, many of them are easy to tear down. Many of them also had passes or gates which obviously were open when not guarded. This was the case at Sanguankou (Ningxia), where the Mongols invaded.


-chinoook

Edited by chinooook, 17 February 2010 - 11:06 AM.

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#13 mohistManiac

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 11:49 AM

There had not been any intact wall at the time and it was no problem to cross the line of it. There was no method neccessary. Security against Mongol strikes was mainly garanteed by city walls. Ningxia (about todays Yinchuan) has been sieged by the Mongols and finally was conquered.
There was no large-scale defense at the times the Mongols entered China since China was busy with internal problems.


-chinoook


http://en.wikipedia....t_wall_of_china
I don't know how to imagine of non-intact walls when clearly the Ming walls were built and maintained. According to the wiki article on the great wall, "The Great Wall concept was revived again during the Ming Dynasty following the Ming army's defeat by the Oirats in the Battle of Tumu in 1449. The Ming had failed to gain a clear upper-hand over the Manchurian and Mongolian tribes after successive battles, and the long-drawn conflict was taking a toll on the empire. The Ming adopted a new strategy to keep the nomadic tribes out by constructing walls along the northern border of China. Acknowledging the Mongol control established in the Ordos Desert, the wall followed the desert's southern edge instead of incorporating the bend of the Huang He." By analogy, I guess we could be referring to a weather proof house which stops rain and debris from entering. At the time of building the rain and debris find ways to simply "step in" through the temporary protective tarp but what about the choices that were presented to the Mongols when they confront miles upon miles of connected circuits of walls. I really don't think they could just leap over but rather had to come up with the idea of grappling hooks to make a rope ladder.
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#14 chinooook

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 02:18 PM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_wall_of_china
I don't know how to imagine of non-intact walls when clearly the Ming walls were built and maintained. According to the wiki article on the great wall, "The Great Wall concept was revived again during the Ming Dynasty following the Ming army's defeat by the Oirats in the Battle of Tumu in 1449. The Ming had failed to gain a clear upper-hand over the Manchurian and Mongolian tribes after successive battles, and the long-drawn conflict was taking a toll on the empire. The Ming adopted a new strategy to keep the nomadic tribes out by constructing walls along the northern border of China. Acknowledging the Mongol control established in the Ordos Desert, the wall followed the desert's southern edge instead of incorporating the bend of the Huang He." By analogy, I guess we could be referring to a weather proof house which stops rain and debris from entering. At the time of building the rain and debris find ways to simply "step in" through the temporary protective tarp but what about the choices that were presented to the Mongols when they confront miles upon miles of connected circuits of walls. I really don't think they could just leap over but rather had to come up with the idea of grappling hooks to make a rope ladder.


The initial question was:"How did the Mongols penetrate the great wall?"
At the time the mongols conquered China there was no Ming dynasty and therefore no wall built and maintained by the Ming.
I also doubt that "Mongol control established in the Ordos Desert". The Ming did not have any interst in the Ordos and therefore built the wall south of it. It would not been any problem for them to conquer the Ordos (a comperatively small area) but did not have any idea what to do with it. The Ordos was steppe in that time and no target for Chines agriculture. If the Ming did have control of the Yellow River bend (as Qin, Han and Zhao did) they would have easily defended the Ordos. The often claimed strategic importance of the Ordos had never been there.


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#15 Mei Houwang

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 06:48 PM

One could theoretically "bypass" the Great Wall because there is no way any dynasty could defend every part of the wall itself. The Qing dynasty did it once against the Ming, in which they bypassed defended sections and went through a section which no one previously cared about, letting them arrive near Beijing. This turned out to be a mistake as they are sandwiched between Yuan's defenders at the Great Wall and the defenders at Beijing. However, the attempt showed that bypassing the wall is very possible.




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