What drew my to the Great Wall is that the Great Wall isn’t only a physical thing but it is also something that has stood for a culture. From a physical barrier to something that established safe caravan routes, the Great Wall has stood for it all. It represents China, in the current and in the past. This draws me to The Great Wall of China. The three dynasties that constructed the wall were the Qin, the Han, and the Ming.
Chin Shi Huang, the originator of the wall and who the great country gets its name after probably wouldn’t of ever expected the wall to be a 4,500 mile long masterpiece that would have turned out to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World! The Qin wall was built to keep people out, and to keep people in.
The Han wall was built as a cultural icon and a physical force. It was also the longest dynasty, lasting four hundred and twenty two years. The Han are the ones that restored the Confucian literature to China, established a strong central government, and set up the first public school system! The Han, being the builders of the second portion of the Great Wall extended and restored the Qin wall 300 miles into the Gobi desert. (www.discovery.com) By extending the Great Wall they opened China up to great expansion of trade. Trade of ideas, knowledge, and physical goods.
The Ming wall was the last section to be built. It was built in an age when China would become a world economic power. This wall took an estimated 200 years to complete. The Ming portion of the wall contained individual forts that at one time held and estimated one million soldiers! An economic power is something that is not attained in one day but over time through careful planning and excellent leadership.
The Great Wall of China is something that has stood for a culture for over two thousand years! It is a magnificent physical structure and cultural icon that represents an immense undertaking that shows a culture to the world.
Physically, the wall is a 4,500-mile long structure that covers land from the Gobi desert to the mountains of Korea! It is not a single wall but a series of walls built over a time span of over one thousand years. The wall was built and rebuilt many times throughout the ages. Seventy Percent of China’s population was involved in building the Qin section of the wall! Different building techniques were used to build the wall. Such as a mixture of reed, sand, and water mixed to form 4-inch layers one by one until the wall was in full form; this technique was used in the Gobi desert section. During the Ming dynasty the wall was built using bricks made in kilns. These bricks are the quality of current masonry bricks. The Ming portion of the wall is the portion of the wall that is known greatly to modern society because of the durability of the building techniques.
Culturally, the Wall is an item that has been the epitome of a representation of a society that has changed immensely through time. “No, the wall is not for modern use; it is an ancient fossil-the largest fossil on the planet. But fossils are useful and truthful. It is the dividing line between two civilizations, and between two eras.” (Geil, Page #) These quote sums up the extent that the Great Wall can be related to anthropology. This is an important concept.
Politically, the wall is something that has been used to intimidate, invite, and shun people, whether inside the constraints of the wall or on the outside. Shi Huang Ti was a tyrant, an amazing leader that brought together cultures and turned them into one. “…the fundamental social and cultural unity which is China has remained unbroken.” (Clark, 64) He brought together a society through force, forcefully bringing in all outside nobles into one central civilization and constraining them into a city surrounded by walls.
Economically, the Wall has been an item of great success. It has successfully drawn trade routes and even the famous Silk Roads. There wasn’t a choice for outsiders to bring anything into the country without going through the Great Wall and its keepers.
Militaristically the wall is a masterpiece, pure genius. Forty Five Hundred miles long, beacon towers every fifteen to thirty miles, the use of smoke signals, and an estimated force of one million men! There is nothing that the wall couldn’t stop. “…Greatest defense structure ever designed and constructed by mankind…” (www.discovery.com) There is no way to describe it better. The halt and expulsion of the Xiongnu (Crushed during the Han dynasty), a force to the north proves this.
The wall represents all aspects of the anthropological culture. The Wall shows what I feel is the greatest aspect of anthropology; this is that everything can be linked together in one way or another.
With the investigation of the Great Wall of China and its culture context it has lead me to a better understanding of the nature of culture and how culture works. It has done this through a few different ways. First of all, it has lead me to realize that culture is not only about a few certain items that are physically visible or metaphorically understandable. I now see that you cannot understand something completely without a complete investigation of the subject; whether it be a person, a society, or a physical item. Seeing the truth behind something is an undertaking that requires thought and a willingness to be open to anything and everything. We are all the same. I believe this, “We all come from the same place, we all end up in the same place, but were all so different in-between, but no matter what happens were all the same. No one is better than another person, be open and ready to be shocked by a difference me and you. But don’t let it fool you. Everyone is special and we all add a stone to the wall of life. The best wall is one that is positive and strong. But this wall must be passable; it must have an opening that anyone can pass through. But the only people that will find the door through are the ones that are willing to be open themselves!” There are so many views, ideas, and aspects of wall due to its extreme complexity, culturally and archeologically. Everything can be linked to everything! This is the ultimate anthropological truth. The Great Wall is truly great.
Rause, Vince 1999
Secrets of the Great Wall. www.discovery.com
National Gallery of Art Washington, D.C. 2000
1968 The Archeology of Ancient China
1935 The Great Wall Crumbles
The MacMillan Company, New York
Feinman, Gary & Price, Douglas T.
1997 Images of the Past
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Geil, William Edgar
1909 The Great Wall of China
New York: Sturgis & Walton Company
Peking 1974 New Archeological Finds in China
Foreign Languages Press