Friday, April 3, 2015


The Great Wall was an intricate and complex weapon used to repel invaders from the north. While it may seem like a fun Great Wall hike to you, to the ancient residents of the wall it was serious business.

      Ramparts: Ramparts are the main body of the Great Wall structure. The architectural form, structure type and material use of the rampart would differ according to various topographical conditions, building conditions and technologies. The early Qin ramparts have two types, i.e., ramming walls of loess and dried stone walls respectively. The former are distributed in Pingchuan Area in northwest China where rainfall is rare. They were rammed in layers that can be clearly seen in some sites, such as the remaining Zhao ramparts at the foot of the Daqing Mountain, which are about 5.4 meters high. The latter were built in the mountainous region or the stone producing area. Stone walls before the Ming Dynasty were mainly built with rubbles, and there were no trimmed rectangle slabs. The Qi stone ramparts in Laiwu remain 4 to 5 meters in width and 1 to 2 meters or 3 to 4 meters in height. The Qin Great Wall in Guyang was already put into use large and more regular slabs. The Ming Great Wall is relatively well kept. Ramparts built with grey bricks outside mainly appeared at the time. In different places wall structures are different. In the plain and at important passes ramparts were built high and strong. Among precipitous mountains ramparts were relatively lower. Ramparts of Shanhaiguan. The Jinshan Range, Badaling and other places in Hebei and Beijing area average over 10 meters in height, 7 to 8 meters in width at the bottom, 4 to 5 meters in width on the top. Lime paste was used in brick adherence and crack pouring. The brick is 0.4 meters long, 0.2 meters wide and 0.1 meters thick. The top floor of the ramparts was paved flat with bricks, and was convenient for troops’ maneuvering and transporting provisions and weapons. Inside the top of the ramparts there are eaves walls of about a meter high for protecting soldiers and horses from falling off. Outside the top of the ramparts there is a line of battlement of about 2 meters high for watching and shooting. In some sections there are battlements on both sides of the top ramparts to prevent the enemy from attacking from inside. On the top of battlements and eaves walls there are a layer of ridge bricks. The ridge brick is high in the middle and is easy for draining. Inside the foot of the top ramparts there are rain gutters connected with discharge pores that lead to water outlets outside the wall. The water outlet is a 1 meter long stone trough that was built in the inner wall. The Ming ramparts were built with rammed earth, rubbles, bricks and slabs in different areas. In Yulin and Datong towns ramming earth walls were mainly constructed. In Shunxi Town the ramparts were built with rammed earth inside and bricks outside. In Xuanfu Town most ramparts were mainly built with stones or earth, and a little with rammed tabia (a mixture of quicklime, clay and sand) inside and bricks outside. The Ji Town ramparts directed by Qi Jiguang, Garrison Commander of Ji Town at the time were constructed mainly with grey soil or rubbles inside and grey bricks, slabs or block stone outside. Ramparts, built in mountainous regions would turn cliffs into walls with battlements directly on the top of the cliff, which were called “cliff walls”. Sometimes precipitous ridges were cleft into cliffs that could be made for side walls and effectively prevent people from climbing up, which were called “ridge cleaving walls”. Still, there were ramparts in some places built with oaks or planks. 

      Barrier Walls:  Barrier Walls: The barrier wall is a partition wall of about 2 meters high and 1.5 meters wide built on the rampart. It could prevent the enemy who had broken through a rampart from intruding further sideward. When the enemy got upon a rampart in a battle, the defender would make use of shelters to fight back and shoot through shooting holes in the barrier wall. The barrier wall was always built on the flanks of the watch tower located in the commanding height. It was a flank battlefield. Ramparts connected with watch towers in the commanding height always have a shape like ascending ladder access with much inclination on which barrier walls were constructed. The density of barrier walls was decided according to the inclination of the rampart. Defenders could shoot the enemy below through many barrier walls. The barrier walls, on the other hand, could screen out the enemy’s sideward shooting.

      Battle Walls: Battle walls: The battle wall was always constructed on an advantageous terrain 50 to 100 meters outside the chief rampart that holds a special strategic position. If necessary, several battle walls would be constructed in a place. The battle wall was always made of bricks and stones, and constructed on highland in order to force the enemy to enter the battle before having got near the chief rampart, For occupying the highland where the battle wall was located, the enemy had to make upward attack and thus would  experience a heavy loss. On battle walls there were also deployed mobile troops who would defend the enemy outside the chief rampart and greatly lessen the chief rampart’s pressure. Many passes along The Great Wall were called “triple passes”, because there were two additional battle walls in front f the chief rampart that was accessible for the enemy. Specifications of the battle wall were decided by topographical conditions. On the flat terrain it would be built high and think. On the precipitous terrain it would be built lower, about 3 to 5 meters high. Some brick battle walls of the Ji Town Great Wall are quite distinctive that generally have shooting holes in the whole wall in groveling, kneeling and standing positions. The side length of each square shooting hole is 0.3 meters. The holes were arranged in three lines and formed a quincunx. The arrangement enabled the defender to shoot high with high, middle and low fire, and to increase the fire density and the enemy’s casualty. The battle wall on the other hand, greatly protected the defenders behind it.

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