Today, we’re continuing with our major series about the long and rich history of the Hetao area. Now, Hetao is the name given to the region along the Yellow River where it flows through Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi and Shanxi. It’s a region with fertile land and considerable strategic importance. Researchers working in the Hetao area have made a number of important discoveries; these include vast quantities of dinosaur bones, rock paintings and bronze ware. These discoveries have answered a number of questions concerning the region’s history – and at the same time, raised a number of new ones.
Although the Bronze Age is generally associated with despotic rule, warfare and social upheaval, it has also left a positive legacy. It was a time when production skills reached previously unknown levels of development. Along with the social progress this brought, people also enjoyed a significantly higher standard of material and cultural living.
Gaoque Fortress was the first military fortification built by King Wuling of Zhao, back in 300 BC. Its remains can still be seen, on a terrace on a steep cliff at Wulate Houqi in Inner Mongolia. From a distance, the fortress appears to be standing between two mountain peaks, facing each other like two gate towers. Hence the name Gaoque, meaning gate tower.
Two thousand years ago, the Gaoque and Jilu Fortresses on the Great Wall in Inner Mongolia, were vital military outposts for the Han empire. They were important also, in protecting the local agriculture. They presided over periods of both warfare and peace between the Han people and the minority ethnic groups that inhabited the area. With time, the farming and herding lifestyles of the various communities gradually integrated. In our next programme, we’ll hear more about agriculture in the Hetao area in ancient times, and how wine was made there.