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Top Choice 05/05/2015 World Heritage China Part 35- The Great Wall


05-05-2015 22:33 BJT


The beacon towers:

The beacon towers are one of the most important parts of the Great Wall’s defense system. They worked as installations passing on military information. The beacon tower as a kind of information passing tool had already been invented long ago. When the Great Wall started construction, they were perfectly adopted. And then, they were improved gradually and became one of the best tools to pass on military information in ancient times. In detail, the information would be passed by using smoke signals during the daytime and by using flames at night, so the signals could be seen clearly whether at day or at night. It was a very fast and scientific method. In order to pass on information about the number of enemy troops, different amounts of flames and smoke columns would be sent. In the Ming Dynasty, signal guns would also be fired to enhance the effect of the warning, and in that way, the signal could be transmitted hundreds of kilometers in seconds. In ancient times when there were no telephones or radio communications equipment, it was a pretty fast way of passing on military information. The geographical layout of the beacon towers is also very important. The key point was that the towers must be built on the tops of high and steep mountain peaks or turning points, and the people on any one side of the towers must be able to see the other two towers next to them so that the signal could be effectively passed along. The beacon tower once was also called the “pavilion,” “signal pavilion” and “flame pavilion” in the Han Dynasty. In the Ming Dynasty, it was called the “smoke block.” In addition to passing on military information, it also had other functions such as protecting passing emissaries, and offering boarding and providing feedstuff for horses. In some sections of the Great Wall, there were only beacon towers but no walls, which can prove the important role that beacon towers played in the defense system of the Great Wall.

Great value of the Great Wall

The construction of the Great Wall started in the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BC), and lasted for more than 2,000 years of Chinese feudal dynasties. It is well-known that feudal society is the most abundant and glorious chapter in the ancient history of Chinese civilization. Most of the important political, economic or cultural events are all concerned with the Great Wall, such as ancient wars, regime changes, and ethnic conflicts. The Great Wall, as a real historical monument, will stand in China forever. The Great Wall has enriched the glorious Chinese culture and art, which has a history of more than 2,000 years. Besides the architectural compositions, shapes, decorations and paintings of the walls, beacon towers, and other fortifications, there are poems, folk literature and Chinese operas on the Great Wall.

Many emperors, soldiers garrisoned along the border, and poets left a large number of immortal writings throughout the ages. The border-themed poems have become an important branch of classical literature. For example, Li Bai once wrote, “the wind, which came from tens of thousands of miles away, finally arrives at the Yumen Pass,” Wang Changling once wrote, “The moon that shone in the Qin Dynasty still shines, and the mountain passes that were used in the Han Dynasty still stand,” Wang Wei once wrote, “please drink one more cup of wine, for you will find no old friends after leaving the Yangguan Pass,” and Cen Shen once wrote, “As if the vernal breeze had come back, and adorned thousands of pear trees with white blossoms overnight.” These poems have been handed down from generation to generation. In addition, people today still sing the songs about Meng Jiangnv sending winter clothing to her husband. The remains of ancient fortresses and impregnable passes still exist, making the scenery of China even more magnificent. The Great Wall will be with China and the entire world for ever.

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