Sui expensed large numbers of labors and set severe time limits for building walls.
At such great cost, the constructions were finished. But it broke countless families
so as to the extreme of tyranny, and eventually incurred uprisings. The Sui Dynasty
breathed its last in 618 after its 37-year rule, and was finally replaced by the
Tang Dynasty (618 ~ 907).
The strength of Tang Dynasty reached the peak of all times. And the north borderline
was far beyond the Wall. So the Tang Dynasty didn't build any wall.
For the following period from Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms to the Song Dynasty,
the walls fell into the territories of the two states of Liao and Jin and were
In 1279, Mongol founded the Yuan Dynasty. With the north and south of China
unified, it occupied a large territory, the largest ever in Chinese history.
Without harassment form beyond the Wall, no wall was built.
In 1368, through a series of battles against Yuan, the Ming Dynasty established.
In its first years, to consolidate its rule and stabilize the society, Ming
reduced taxes for peasants and propped up commercial activities. The social
production gradually recovered and the economy began to evolve. The state-run
industries, such as iron and bronze, weapon and ammunition industries and civil
engineering, also developed and came to the highest level of all times.
On the other hand, Mongol, once defeated with their dynasty Yuan falling down
and forced beyond the Wall, wished to come back to rule. It frequently harassed
the north border of Ming. Besides Mongol, another nomad nationality, Nuzhen,
sprang up to the northeast of Ming, ambitiously waiting for its chance.
To protect its borderline, Ming built walls for several times. It at first
only fixed up the poor-conditioned walls hundreds of years old. Later it began
to build new walls in large scales. The walls built during this time were grand
and excellent for defense. Attributed to solid materials, they were much firmer
than their previous ones, and have survived hundreds of years so people can
see it today. The Great Wall today was mostly built in the Ming Dynasty. The
following is about the wall constructions during the Ming Dynasty.
From 1399 to 1402, King Ming Huidi built the wall starting in present Xuanhua
and ending in now Datong of Shanxi.
In 1413, to strengthen the defense on the north, King Ming Chengzu dug a deep
and wide trench along the inner side of the above wall and piled the diggings
into a stone fence. (Trench and fence heaped of the diggings was one form of
wall for defense purpose. It was adopted in places where walls couldn't be easily
built or materials lacked.) The trench started at Xi'ma'lin of Wanquan County
of Hebei Province and ran about 100 kilometers eastward to the Chang'an'ling
Fortress of Xuanhua of Hebei Province.
In 1436, King Ming Yingzong set up 22 watchtowers along the line running about
250 kilometers from Longwu County of Hebei Province to Dushikou to North Jixian
County. The same year, Ming built beacons along the route from present Yanchi
of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
In 1466, King Ming Xianzong built two groups of 34 platforms along the two
lines separately going from Dingbian County to Huanxian County and from Anbian
County to Qingyang County. The both lines went northward from present east Gansu
Province to north Shannxi Province.
In the time of Ming Yingzong, Mongolia lying in the north was dominated by
Tuohuan, head of Wala, one major branch of Mongolia, and gradually thrived.
Yexian, son of Tuohuan, continued his father's rule and focused on developing
the military strength. With his military power, Yexian invaded Ming frequently.
In 1449, Yexian led armies from three ways towards Ming. King Ming Yingzong
commanded troops personally on wrong advice and was ultimately captured in Tumu,
which battle known as "Tumu Crisis". Yexian was finally defeated in his attack
on present Beijing, capital of Ming. He returned Ming Yingzong the next year
after failures of taking him as hostage. Since then the kings of the Ming Dynasty
all engaged in strengthening the north-border defense by adding devices and
building new walls.
King Ming Xianzong noticed that though troops were already stationed in the
Shanhaiguan Pass, Xifengkou, Gubeikou, the Juyongguan Pass and the Daomaguan
Pass, yet these passed were disconnected from each other and exposed to invasion
from the hillside. So in 1476, Ming Xianzong built the wall running west from
the Shanhaiguan Pass to the Yanmenguan Pass by employing armies and residents.
In 1471, Yu Zijun, provincial governor responsible for the border safety of
Shanbei Province, employed his army and people and built a wall in a very short
time. The wall, together with 11 fortresses and nearly 100 beacons, ran about
850 kilometers from present northeast Shenmu County of Shannxi Province to present
Yanchi County of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Furthermore, by cutting into
mountains and flattening low lands along the south side of the wall, Yu paved
up the passageway that started from Pianguan of Shanxi Province, ran west to
Kuyuan County of Guansu Province and arrived in Yinchuan of Ningxia Hui Autonomous
In 1372, General Feng Sheng crusaded enemies to the West Regions, where he
built the Jiayu Pass. In the time of King Ming Xiaozong, the city gate tower
and the outer city were added to the Pass.
In the time of King Ming Xiaozong, he took official Yang Yiqing's advice to
build the wall from present Anbian of Shannxi Province to the east bank of the
Yellow River in Wulin County of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. The wall was
to prevent enemies from sneak attack from the vast desert absent of natural
In the time of King Ming Wuzong, he took viceroy Weng Wanda's advice to fix
up the 500-kilometer wall along with 363 beacons within Xuanfu and Datong County.
Yet the wall blocked the road to Mongolia and made the trade inconvenient, so
it was soon damaged intentionally. Weng Wanda advised to renovate it. King Ming
Wuzong agreed. The wall was thus repaired again, thoroughly this time. Moreover,
closets were added inside the wall for storing firearms.
In the time of Ming Muzong, two tribes called Anda and Tuman frequently invaded
the border near Jimen, threatening Beijing. In 1568, Qi Jiguang was appointed
chief officer dealing with military affairs of Jizhou, Changpin, Liaodong and
Baoding. On investigation, he suggested repairing the wall from the Shanhaiguan
Pass to Changpin and building along the line 3000 watchtowers. But King Ming
Muzong consented only 1000 towers. The arduous construction started from 1569
and last three years. 1007 lookout towers were set up and the defense on the
north border thus greatly strengthened.
On the whole, the Wall of the Ming Dynasty was built along the lines of the
walls of the Northern Qi and the Northern Wei Dynasties. During the reigns of
King Ming Taizu, Ming Yingzong and Ming Xianzong, the Ming Dynasty enhanced
the north-border defense mainly by constructing passes and beacons. It's not
until the time of King Ming Xiaozong that walls and over 1000 fortresses were
built massively. The Great Wall we see today was mostly built that time.