Jump to content
Learn Chinese in China

North part of Great Wall’s main purpose wasn’t to stop the Mongols?


Recommended Posts

Archaeologists suggest surprising true purpose of Great Wall of China's northern section


“It was supposedly built to keep the bloodthirsty Mongolian conqueror Genghis Khan at bay.


“But the northern segment of the Great Wall of China served a more mundane purpose, according to Israeli archaeologists who say it was actually used to hem in livestock.


“The archaeologists came to the conclusion, which challenges previous assumptions, after mapping out the Great Wall's 460-mile Northern Line for the first time.


"Prior to our research, most people thought the wall's purpose was to stop Genghis Khan's army," said Prof Gideon Shelach-Lavi, an expert at Jerusalem's Hebrew University and the leader of the two year-study.


“But the Northern Line, which lies mostly in Mongolia, winds through valleys, is relatively low in height and close to paths - which suggests it served non-military functions.


"Our conclusion is that it was more about monitoring or blocking the movement of people and livestock, maybe to tax them," Prof Shelach-Lavi said.”





  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

2 hours ago, NinjaTurtle said:

"Our conclusion is that it was more about monitoring or blocking the movement of people and livestock, maybe to tax them," Prof Shelach-Lavi said.”


That's a nice theory, but it doesn't have as much pull as this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SKI9rgqFck. IMHO it's more believable, Matt Damon and all. 


On a different note, what has always bothered me is the supposed functionality of a tall wall to stop armies. When placed around a city or fortress they definitely serve as a great deterrent (if paired with fed soldiers in strategic positions, who are also fighting for their lives), but that hasn't stopped enemy armies in the long term. All walls have fallen at some point. When we consider the length of this particular wall and how it probably was only defended at strategic places (and done so intermittently), it couldn't possibly work to keep the barbarians away. A simple expedition 300km west/east and they could easily find an unprotected or barely maintained spot to go through. And we are talking about an empire that subsequently reached eastern Europe, not French soldiers drinking wine and freezing to death in Russia.


We may never know, but these claims make all the sense to me: force everybody on either side to cross through a specific spot, either for economic or demographic purposes, in the same way that our modern borders work.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We read a short general history of China by a noted Polish Sinologist whose name escapes me as part of our degree and recall he was positing the idea it was much more a tax barrier and demarcation line trying to keep the peasants in, think his first edition was written in late seventies. Can't watch the YouTube link so not sure if that's the same theory. Think similar has been said about Hadrian's Wall in northern Britain.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Jim said:

Can't watch the YouTube link so not sure if that's the same theory

Not quite.  The link goes to "The Great Wall" movie trailer, with Matt Damon, where the wall is used to fend off alien invaders.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please don't post blocked links unless you don't have an unblocked source to use, and in that case explain what it is for those who can't get to it. I realise most people have a VPN, but not everyone does, and not everyone can have it turned on all the time.


Also, weak joke. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I heard a story that the Mongols got through the Great Wall because a Chinese general opened the gate for them. Is it true? I also heard that the Chinese general who did this is hated in China even to this day. Is this true?


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't know for sure, I did start my sentence with the words "It is said.."


I don't think it is 100% one or the other.


I do think the wall was there for the purpose of control and counting, how many sheep, horses, bags of food, or people have come through. How much shall we tax them?




Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...