history paper - Great Wall

history paper - Great Wall - Lennon Mark Lennon History of...

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Lennon Mark Lennon History of East Asia Professor Michael Wert Spring, 2008 The Great Wall: Eroding Wonder or Faulty Cruelty? During the warring states period that lasted from the 5 th century to 221 BC, the Chinese states of Qi, Yan, and Zhou all constructed elaborate fortifications in an effort to increase border defense. This period came to an abrupt end with the conquering of the surrounding states by Qin Shi huangdi who established the Qin dynasty. During his reign, he ordered the building of a new wall along the country’s northern frontier that would connect the existing walls and protect the Chinese from the barbarous Xiongnu people to the north. While this began what would later be known as The Great Wall, it wasn’t until many years and several dynasties later that Chinese wall-building peaked under the rule of the Ming dynasty. Suffering from numerous threats from the Mongolian and Manchurian tribes in the north, the Ming emperors began relentlessly building walls along the southern edge of the Orlos dessert that formed China’s northern border. Though it did initially keep out several Manchu invasions, the Mongol invaders eventually breached the wall by going around it because it was discontinued at certain points. Proven unsuccessful, the wall was abandoned shortly thereafter (Rosenberg). At the time of its final completion, it stood at over 4,000 miles but today it measures around 1,500 miles due to the wear and tear it has faced over the years. While it certainly has been a prominent Chinese symbol for over 2,000 years, the legend of the Great Wall of China never really grew to what it is today until Western contact occurred 1
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Lennon in the 17 th to 20 th centuries. Today, it is most commonly viewed upon as one of the greatest man-made accomplishments in history. It is seen as a mystical, almost other- worldly creation that stands as a symbol for contemporary China and embodies the notion of Orientalism (Waldron, 225). Many modern scholars such as Albert Bushnell Hart, Peg Lopata, and Melinda Liu revere this phenomenal piece of architecture in their writings. Their ideas of the wall are based on its present-day contributions to Chinese culture, society, and history. Marveling at the gargantuan measurements of this wonder, they shape their perspectives of the Great Wall around the notion that it stands as one of the most astonishing feats in the history of the world and a symbol for the power of the Chinese dynasties. Lopata puts it in hypothetical perspective when she claims, “Imagine a 30-foot high wall stretching from New York City to Denver, Colorado. Imagine this wall being constructed without the use of bulldozers or backhoes” (Lopata, 1). However, viewing the wall as a “wonder of the world” raises a large problematic concern for these
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history paper - Great Wall - Lennon Mark Lennon History of...

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