Historical Article: China's Imperial Reign by Michael Haran

Walls stretch from the edge of the western desert at Duhang in the west to the bay of Guangzhou on the South China Sea in the east. For centuries it was assumed that the wall was a composite structure added to over the years until it reached its ultimate shape. This view has recently (in historic terms) been debunked There never was a single wall periodically worked upon reaching the presently discernable size but a series of walls in widely different areas which arose as circumstances dictated.(Great Wall Julia Lovell, The great wall of China Arthur Waldron.)

Walls had been constructed since the Shang dynasty far out into the desert , along the northern reach of the Ordos desert loop in the Yellow River .In the east, walls situated several hundreds of miles to the north and south ,some a few hundred miles from Beijing ,some in the mountain pass to the west close to the alternate capital city of Loyang near the rivers northerly bend.

To the north of these walls lived the hsiung nu who came into being due to the tough desert pony and the compound bow. Their deficiency was in the area manufactured goods and grain, a nomadic society having no means of producing such things and forced to barter or pillage. The contemporary historian Chang Wei hue states that in order to keep out the barbarian the Qin (221 BCE) had made considerable use of walls already put in place during the earlier Warring states period. Ruins exist today in in modern Kansu province and Shashi of walls built during the reign of King Chao hsiang (306 251) BCE. Traces of walls have been found far out into the western desert, far from any Chinese populations of the day .Maybe, some have speculated, they were built to intercept nomads coming from the Indian subcontinent in order to rob them of their trade goods. These nomads originally horse-less, became mounted during the Shang era, thus becoming a threat to the south. The Qin general Meng ti'en drove the hsiung -nu out of the Ordos desert situated within the northerly loop of the Yellow river. By the time Mengs death all of the conquered territory was reclaimed by the hsiung -nu.

The early reign of the Ming was named the Hongwu; vast military power harking back to the Tang dynasty, (tough horse man more than a match for the barbarians), and the promise of revival of earlier military glories. Young lo and Hung wu emperors fulfilled this promise striking fear into barbarian no matter which tribe. A Ming municipality was attacked, the Ming counter attacking killing the families of the hsiung-nu camped by a lake many hundreds of miles from the warriors. Hearing of the slaughter the hsiung -nu rushed back to the camping ground to be caught in a trap and eliminated.

At the beginning of the dynasty the Ming were military successful, a forwards policy extending their control well into Mongolia up to the Jade gates of Duhang to the west, the beginning of the westward journey for the silk caravans and the eastern terminus for the silver flowing from the western portion of the Roman empire .Silver was not the immediate concern of the Ming ,horses and jade were as horses were needed to counter the Hsiung-nu,jade for trade in the local areas. The epic battle of Tu'mu signaled the end of Ming domination of the northern steppe. A young emperor captured and held hostage, an army of up to 100, 000 wiped out, the new emperor refusing to pay barbarian tribute bringing an end to incursions into the steppe.

In 1456 CE Tseng Hsiang was appointed supreme commander of the border district: Yu-len, Ming Hsia and Ku'yon.He had made two proposals to the minister of war, one for wall construction, the other for increased funds for the army. The first was approved the latter met with consternation. Conflict arose when a Yen Sung of the wall building faction laid charges against Tseng, he himself in jail for displeasing the emperor. The final result: Sung won his impeachment against Tsieng Hsian who was beheaded, his friend Hsia Yen hearing the news fainted as he knew he would be next.

The walls had two purposes, one to keep out the hsiung-nu, the other to contribute towards defense against foreign invasion. In the former role it at times worked .In the case of the latter it was an abysmal failure, both the Mongols and the Manchu managing to invade despite the walls.

During the preceding Yuan period there was no need for walls as the Yuan Empire stretched to the Mediterranean in the west to the South China Sea in the East. The dominant philosophy was Shamanism although Timor, commander of the breakaway Golden Horde situated in Russian managed to inject in a certain amount of Islamism with his rebellion against Helugu due to his rage over his razing the caliphate of Baghdad.

There was no wall building during the Yuan legalistic period.

Similarly during the Manchu period there was no need for walls as the Manchu in fact owned the steppe before they invaded .The portions of magnificent wall built by the previous dynasty was left to decay or serve as construction material for nearby residenceces.It is only during the present period that the wall has again come to the forefront used by Mao Zedong during the Nixon visit as a backdrop and now being repaired and rebuilt.

For hundreds of years there had been no political discourse, the banner men of the Manchu in supreme command, the native Chinese forced to wear pig tails in order to be easily identifiable. Massive slaughter occurred as Chinese rebels attempted to over throw the Manchu, the Taiping revolution occurring alongside the first opium war.

A premature bomb explosion at Hung Chow October 9 1911 started a revolution. On December 29 the rebel leader Sun Yat Sen declared Yuan Shih -kais as prime minister and responsible for saving the crumbling monarchy. On February 11 he became president. Sun yat sen resigned in 1915 when Yuan declared himself as emperor. Sun yat sen called for an armed uprising which was suppressed by Yuan.

A group of dissidents including Sun yat sen formed a clique in Japan.Amoung then Kang Nu-wei who advocated for China a constitutional monarchy. Liang Ch’in advocated two types of state, a constitutional monarchy allied with a constitutional republic, others preferred a state where Confucianism was the state religion which was odd as Confucius never intended his philosophy be made a religion. Kang yu Wei attempted to establish Confucianism and met with a violent reaction. In China a famous writer Lu Hsun (1881 1936), the Gorky of China put Confucians in a losing position as did Hu Shih (1891 1962) father of the China literary renaissance, .American educated but versed in Chinese philosophy and literature, he espoused a more practical course for China where there would be a de-emphasis of isms, the various philosophies relegated to a method of indexing e and classifying things. Hu Shih stated Confucianism and Daoism had made Chinas weak and complacent causing it to lose its ability to fight. He further stated that being an ideological slave to Marx and Kropotkin was equal to blindly following Confucius or neo confusion Chu Hsi.Looking at the pattern of Chinese dynastic rise and fall one begins to wonders what form will China adopt ?A period resembling the fall of the Tang and the appearance of the five dynasties of the north and ten kingdoms of the south ushering in the Song,, or , the collapse of the Han followed by the formation of the Sui and its varies followers leading to the rise of the Tang. The Tang half barbaric but able to deal with the hsiung-nu, the cultivated Song hiring the Jinn to deal with the Liao who eventually turned on their employer ushering an age of confusion. Or is the present arrangement set in stone?

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Bibliography The Great Wall of China, from history to myth Arthur Waldron The Dynasties of China Bamber Gascione