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The Architectural and Cultural Use of Walls in China

Walls in China architecture essay

The Great walls of china stand out as a great tourist attraction in the world today; in fact it is among the Seven Wonders of the World. It has played a great part in the contribution of tourism in the region where tourists visit the region to experience the great spectacular view of walls. This series of stone and earth reinforcements were built in the 5th century which were several and ended in the 16th century (Evans, p.23). The most famous wall was the one built by the Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, in the 220 – 206 BC. Though many of this wall built by Qin Shi Huang do not exists others that came after him still exists till today; for example, the wall built during the reign of Ming Dynasty still exists and is still strong. This paper focuses on the architectural and cultural use of walls in China.

The wall winds up from the east and west China across the plains, dessert, mountains, grasslands, and plateaus and stretches just about 8851.8 kilometers. Starting from the Hushan Great wall in the east it extended to the Jiayuguan Pass in the west and crossed Liaoning, Beijing, Hebei, Shanxi, Tianjin, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Qinghai, and Gansu (Jan, p.46). There were very many cultural legends and stories developed from the construction of the walls. For example, the Meng Jiangnu’s story and the jiayuguan pass legend. The Meng Jiangnu’s story was developed to signify the wall being as a result of many Chinese commoners; while the Jiayuguan Pass legend was about an accurate calculation of bricks that would build the wall.

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This was done by Yi Kaizhan where his arithmetic showed that the bricks that would build the wall were 99,999 and this was true only that there was an extra brick which they believed was placed there by a supernatural being to fix the wall. The Chinese traditionally refer to the wall as “Long Wall of Ten Thousand Li”. The wall was built for protection from the many nomadic clans that invaded the territory of northern China. This had been initiated by the warring nature of the region in the different states. Other stories and legends include the current scenic spot such as the Beacon tower, Xifengkou, Shanhaiguan Pass – Calligraphy on the Tablet, Wife Tower Legend, Yumenguan Legend and the Metal soup; these stories and legends greatly contributed to the preservation of the Chinese culture and history.
In order to defend themselves from attacks from arms, swords and spears they had to establish walls to act as a barrier (Jan, p.53). They used earth and gravel which were stamped on the ground between board frames. Culturally, the walls were seen as a way of protection and each society or dynasty had to build the walls to protect itself from any invaders.

Dynasties such as Qin Shi Huang succeeded in unifying the Chinese society in 221BC; this led to a centralized rule that would be able to protect the dynasty from the feudal lords. The increased attacks from the tribes of Turks, Mongols, Tunguz from the Xiongnu empire aggravated the need for the wall to be built; this was in addition to increase in military activities (Perkins, p.57). This bring their culture of traditional building within the community where the brought the art to practice making it protect their states. The wall became a perfection of the culture of construction and became a masterpiece that would be built by the human hand.

The wall gives prove of the civilization in china where the rise from manual construction would be clearly identified. A religious perspective of the wall can be seen in view that there were temples built along the wall where they would worship their God. The Chinese also believed in dragons and compare the wall to a great dragon that divinely protected them as it crisscrossed the mountains and ranges. The walls also contributed to culture and development especially to the national economy; for example it safeguarded the Silk Road that was the main route connecting Asia and Europe. The Silk Road was used for the transportation of valuable goods and thus the wall would protect the goods from bandits.

The architectural use of the wall cannot be over emphasized the great blend of the wall with the natural landscape gives a clear view of the appreciation of architecture in the society. The use of natural and locally available materials gives the appreciation and creativity of the Chinese in the ability to create something of their own. The well matched stones and the fortified walls bring out the very beautiful scenery that will continue to attract tourists for a long time. The wall also has 25,000 towers and has 15,000 outposts that make it stand out from any other wonder of the world (Perkins, p.69). The built fortresses in the wall to protect the locals made the traditional Chinese use their knowledge to defend themselves through architecture (Evans, p.58). The wall also has passage ways that run at the top of the wall that made accessibility easy for the military troops.

For example, the Chinese had three ways of protecting themselves which were the Mountain pass city, the Beacon fire sites and the walls. The mountain pass city used to house senior officials; the Beacon fire sites were used to show smoke as signals; and the wall was built to protect the territory from the attacks. The wall acted as the main construction work of the security and connected the beacon fire sites to the mountain passes. The architectural nature of the wall would be seen in varying width and height in different places and the strategic connection of the wall to the passes and fire sites.

The Chinese really applied the architecture to suit their needs at every time; in this case the problem of insecurity could be solved by use of military soldiers however they were able to come up with a strong fortress that would be able to give them immunity for a long time. Just at the end of the wall there are two outstanding symbolic monuments; they are “First Door under Heaven” and the “Last Door under Heaven” at Shanhaiguan and Jiayuguan respectively (Perkins, p.83). These symbolically stand out as the entry to a very strong and safe place for the Chinese.

The models of construction were developed by the Chinese and thus they can proudly say that they had the best architectural prowess that was able to merge all aspects of the natural, society and landscape to produce a magnificent piece of art. It was also during the building of the wall that the Chinese also invented the wheelbarrow which was extensively used in the construction. The height of the wall is also a magnificent work of architecture and standing as high as 40 feet tall the wall was long enough to protect them; however it needed great architectural skills to be able to build such a long wall ((Perkins, p.104). The great wall is very significant even today and it has been a beacon of culture and architectural prowess of the Chinese and they should be able to protect it for the future generations.

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