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'The Piano Guys' scales the Great Wall for video shoot

Internet sensation, the Piano Guys are in China. The Utah-based group took some precious time off their Asian tour in Singapore and Malaysia to fulfil their China dream - shooting a music video on the Great Wall of China...

September 16, 2013
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Great Wall Forest Festival kicks off

The 2013 Yanqing Great Wall Forest Festival, the fourth edition of its kind, was held from August 24 to August 25 in the Tanglewood Music Valley at the foot of the Great Wall Badaling Section in Beijing's Yanqing County...

August 29, 2013
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Jet Team above the Great Wall

Aircraft of Breitling Jet Team, a famous European aerobatic team, perform above the Great Wall of the Jiayuguan Pass in northwest China's Gansu Province, Aug. 13, 2013...

August 16, 2013
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Unique section of the Great Wall draws in visitors

As people all know what the Great Wall looks like but did you know that some of it is built over water? The Jiumenkou section of the wall in Liaoning Province in North East China is famous for just that...

  August 09, 2013
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The Designs of the Great Wall

The Great Wall had three major components: passes, signal towers (beacons), and walls.

Passes

Passes

As major strongholds along the wall, passes usually located at such key positions as intersections with trade routes. The ramparts of many passes were faced with huge bricks and stones, with dirt and crushed stones as filler. The bastions measured some 30 feet (10 meters) high and 13 to 16 feet (4 to 5 meters) wide at the top. Within each pass were access ramps for horses and ladders for soldiers. The outside parapet was crenellated, and the inside parapet, or duo-qiang (nu-qiang), was a low wall about 3 feet (1 meter) high that prevented people and horses from falling off the top.

In addition to serving as an access point for merchants and other civilians, the gate within the pass was used as an exit for the garrison to counterattack raiders or to send out patrols. Under the gate arch there was typically a huge double door of wood. Bolts and locker rings were set in the inner panel of each door. On top of each gate there was a gate tower that served as a watchtower and command post. Usually it stood one to three stories (levels) high and was constructed either of wood or of bricks and wood.

Built outside the gate, where an enemy was most likely to attack, was a weng-cheng, a semicircular or polygonal parapet that shielded the gate from direct assault. Extending beyond the most strategic weng-chengs was an additional line of protection, the luo-cheng, which was often topped by a tower used to watch those beyond the wall and to direct troop movements in battles waged there. Around the gate entrance there was often a moat that was formed in the process of digging earth to build the fortifications.

Single Towers

Single Towers

Signal towers, also called beacons, beacon terraces, smoke mounds (because various substances, including wolves' dung, were burnt), mounds, or kiosks. They were used to send military communications by beacon (fires or lanterns) during the night or by smoke signals in the daytime at the sign of an enemy invasion; other methods such as raising banners, beating clappers, or firing guns often accompanied during the Ming period. For example, one column of smoke plus one gunshot indicated the coming of 100-500 enemies; two columns plus two gunshots meant 500-1000 enemies and 3,000, by three of each. The lower levels contained rooms for soldiers, as well as stables, sheepfolds, and storage areas.

Walls

Walls

The body of the wall was the key part of the defensive system. It usually stood 21.3 feet (6.5 meters) wide at the base and 19 feet (5.8 meters) at the top, with an average height of 23 to 26 feet (7 to 8 meters), or a bit lower on steep hills. The structure of the wall varied from place to place, depending on the availability of building materials. Walls were made of tamped earth sandwiched between wooden boards, adobe bricks, a brick and stone mixture, rocks, or pilings and planks.

In the western deserts the walls were often simple structures of rammed earth and adobe; many eastern ramparts, such as those near Badaling, were faced with stone and included a number of secondary structures and devices. On the inner side of such walls, placed at small intervals, were arched doors called chuan doors, which were made of bricks or stones. Inside each chuan were stone or brick steps leading to the top of the battlement. On the top, on the side facing the enemy, stood 7-foot- (2-metre-) high crenels called duo-kou. On the upper part of the duo-kou were large openings used to watch and shoot at attackers, and on the lower part were small openings, or loopholes, through which defenders could also shoot. At an interval of every 650 to 980 feet (200 to 300 meters) there was a platform. Platforms were of three types.

Platforms

Platforms

One type was a relatively low platform with walls on the four sides, which were either crenellated or embrasure for the shooting of arrows.

A second type was the watchtower, generally two-storied and built of bricks. The lower floor could be supported by two, four or six arches, with the walls on the four sides embrasure for shooting purposes. The arched rooms provided lodging for the soldiers and were also used for the storage of food and fodder, arms and gunpowder. The upper and lower floors were linked by stairs or by a shaft, in which case the soldiers had to go up and down by a rope ladder. The upper floor had crenels and embrasures for watching and shooting at the enemy, and in some cases had a couple of rooms where the guards could stay or beat the watches with a clapper, light a signal torch or be on the lookout for enemy movements.

The third type was the blockhouse. It could have a square or round shape. It was always built on precipitous terrain and well furnished with arms, ammunition and other supplies for military action.

Historical records show that 1,200 watchtowers and blockhouses were built on the Great Wall between Shanhai Pass and Beijing. Each watchtower was generally garrisoned by 60 officers and men, with half the number guarding the tower and the other half deployed behind the battlements on the wall.

On several platforms were simply structured huts called pu-fang, which provided shelter for the guards during storms. Those at Badaling section (near Beijing) commonly had two stories, with accommodations for more than 10 soldiers on the lower level. There were also drainage ditches on the walls to shield them from damage by excessive rainwater.

There were two types of walls used while building the Great Wall.

Although the wall had no master plan, all the sections of walls were eventually combined. Since they were different walls combined, they were made out of different materials. The two main types were dirt walls and stone walls.

Dirt Walls

Dirt walls were made out of many different layers of pounded earth. The dirt was dug by hand and workers carried the dirt to the construction site. There the dirt was packed with wooden pounders into a frame in layers that were 6 inches thick.

Stone Walls

Stone walls were more complex and expensive to build, but they didn't need constant repair as dirt walls did. They were made in a series of steps. The first step was the drying of mud bricks. Then the bricks were baked in kilns. Then the materials were carried by humans and animals to the work site. If the materials had to cross valleys, they used pulleys and ropes to cross it. The foundation was started with a huge slab of stone. Stone blocks were built up along the sides and earth, rocks, and rubble were used to fill in the spaces in between the bricks. Brick railings were built along the sides and rain water drains were built along both sides.

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