The Great Wall of China Research Paper Sample
The Great Wall of China Research Paper
The Great Wall of China is one of the greatest historical monuments that people inherited from the ancient epoch. Some elements of the Great Wall of China, built hundreds of years ago, still exist and attract millions of tourists. The question concerning the reasons for the creation such a huge construction still remains unanswered. Nowadays, it is only possible to suggest different theories and presuppositions concerning the creation of the Great Wall, but it is very difficult to give a definite answer to the question of the reasons for its creation. However, specialists (Waldron and Barfield) agree that the construction of the Great Wall of China was particularly intensive during the Ming dynasty and they emphasize that the Wall did not really had its strategic defensive significance but they rather indicate to the foreign relationships of China and Mongols as one of the major factor that defined the policy of the Ming court at the epoch. But the positions of Waldron and Barfield, in spite of seeming similarities, differ consistently since Thomas Barfield rather gives us a model for the long-term trends, history is actually made in real time, by specific persons with specific arguments. Only Arthur Waldron’s detailed picture of the policy paralysis at the Ming court offers a convincing case of why the Great Wall of China was built.
Waldron’s view on the reasons for building the Great Wall of China
On analyzing the position of Arthur Waldron, his view on the Great Wall of China as a product of the policy of Ming dynasty created in the result of the specific conditions that existed at Ming court at the epoch is undeniable. He argues that the Great Wall of China was consistently improved and enlarged at the epoch of the rule of Ming dynasty (Waldron, 151) that proves that it was not a historical trend but rather the result of the current policy of Ming Dynasty.
The author underlines that the part of the Great Wall of China, which was constructed prior to Ming dynasty, could hardly be viewed as a serious protection from the potential military threat from the North. The parts of the Wall constructed by the predecessors of Ming dynasty create poor fortifications that could not be effective in the protection of China against attack of Mongols1 (Waldron, 133), though it created certain obstacles on the way of Mongols to rapid occupation of a large part of Chinese territory. Arthur Waldron argues that Ming dynasty attempted to improve the existing fortification and introduced sophisticated watchtowers but, as the further history shown, even these fortifications and measures undertaken by Ming dynasty in regard to the strengthening the defensive power of the Great Wall of China were not very effective because the Wall did not stop Mongolian attacks and they broke through the fortification attacking China.
Consequently, the author attempts to find logical explanation of basic reasons for the construction of such great fortifications which needed enormous funding and great human resources to be involved in building of the Wall. About 70% of Chinese population took an active part in the construction of the Great China Wall. Arthur Waldron believes that Ming dynasty focused on the short-run or current problems which the building of the Great Wall could solve. The author argues that the construction of the Great Wall of China contributed to the consolidation of the nation and its unification2 (Waldron, 117). He states that such a project as the construction of the Wall naturally contributed to the unification of the nation because of the involvement of the overwhelming majority of Chinese population in the process of construction. The author argues that the unification of Chinese people should be viewed in two dimensions physical and cultural. Arthur Waldron emphasizes that the common labor made Chinese people not only cooperative but also physically united because they could feel the mutual support as they did the common work. The building of the Great Wall of China was that common work that made people participate in one and the same activity and, therefore, it was a successful managerial strategy used by Ming dynasty because this common work made Chinese feel that they were a kind of a team and the Wall was their ultimate goal, the symbol of their power and unity.
However, the unification of Chinese people was not only physical but also cultural. Arthur Waldron argues that the construction of the Great Wall of China contributed to the cultural unification of the country because Chinese people viewed themselves as “civilized” people opposed to “barbaric” Mongols whose aggressiveness and frequent military interventions was a serious threat to China3 (127). Even though the Great Wall of China had little effect as a strong defense line, it could still unite people since, according to Waldron, the Great Wall of China was viewed as a frontier, a border line between the “civilized” world and the “barbaric” world. The efforts of Chinese people and huge funds invested into the building of the Wall demonstrated the power of Chinese people, their high level of development, and their superiority compared to their Northern neighbors, Mongols, which were apparently unable to construct such a monumental architectural work and fortification as Chinese people did.
Such a policy of Ming dynasty seems to be strange, taking into consideration the fact that the Wall could not fully protect China from attacks of Mongols. Instead, the Wall and its watchtowers could just inform them about the approaching enemy and make essential preparations. Arthur Waldron argues that the defensive function was not prior in the construction of the Wall, but it was rather the effort of Ming court to maintain control over the population of China. The unifying effect of the building of the Wall was much more important to Ming dynasty than the Wall, as a defensive barrier. Waldron believes that Ming dynasty at the epoch was weak in its foreign as well as domestic policy being unable to oppose to Mongols attacks and unify the nation using other means but the wall-building. Consequently, the construction of the Wall was the only response of the dynasty to the major challenges of the epoch, including the problem of the growing internal disparity of Chinese people and separatist trends developed by the opponents of Ming dynasty, which negative effects could be minimized through the involvement of Chinese people in the common work that united them. In relations with Mongols, Ming dynasty could not defeat its Northern neighbors and, therefore, Ming dynasty decided to construct the Wall to separate China from Mongols. The Wall was a dead-end in the foreign policy of Ming proving the inability of the dynasty to solve the “Mongolian problem”, instead, the dynasty preferred to build the Wall and forget about it, demonstrating Mongols the potential and probable power of China.
Barfield’s view on the reasons for building of the Great Wall of China
Similarly to Arthur Waldron, Thomas Barfield stands on the ground that the Chinese-Mongols opposition and contradictions were the major reasons for the creation of the Wall. He argues that the relationships between the two peoples were characterized by the high tension and numerous conflicts since Mongols represented a permanent threat to China. Thomas Barfield underlines that the construction of the Great Wall of China emerged at the epoch of Ming dynasty rule and his position is similar to the position of Arthur Waldron. The difference in the position of these researches may be found in their approach to the construction of the Great Wall of China in historical terms.
Unlike Arthur Waldron, who insists that the Great Wall of China was just a part of the current policy of Ming dynasty was rather a proof of its inability to develop normal relations with Mongols as well as it was a proof of serious internal problems, which Ming could not fully control. Thomas Barfield believes that the construction of the Great Wall of China was a long-run historical process. He argues that the policy of Ming dynasty and its decision to enforce the existing fortifications on the North was the logical continuation of the policy of previous rulers of China4 (148). In contrast, Arthur Waldron stands on the ground that the traditional view on the significance of the Wall prior to Ming dynasty are extremely exaggerated. He concludes that the Wall was insignificant in the past and it was only the desire of Ming dynasty to separate China physically and culturally from Mongols that stimulated the construction of the Great China Wall as a huge fortification, which, though, could not fully protect the country from Mongols attacks.
Thomas Barfield believes that Ming dynasty continued the strategy of previous rulers of China and attempted to create a serious barrier which could be, at least, a symbol of separation or difference between China and Mongols. He argues that Ming dynasty viewed the construction of the Wall as one of its major objectives because of the great historical significance of the Great Wall of China.
Basic reasons for building the Great Wall of China
In spite of existing differences in the views of Barfield and Waldron, their views on the major motives of Ming dynasty leading to the construction of the Great Wall of China can be very helpful in understanding the actual reasons for its construction. The defensive function of the Great Wall of China is undeniable, even though the Wall was not very effective and could not totally prevent Mongols attacks and military expansion, but it played a very important preventive role because after the improvements made by Ming dynasty, the Great Wall of China could be used for the faster spread of information about the attacks and movement of Mongolian armies. Consequently, Chinese people would be more aware of the possible threat and more prepared to attacks of Mongols.
The arguments of Waldron are convincing concerning the unifying power of the construction of the Great Wall because it would be a mistake to deny that such a great work made by Chinese people could fail to unite them. Chinese people were united by the Great Wall of China that demonstrated the richness and power of Chinese people and its ability to create such fortifications. The Wall stimulated the formation of the national identity and this was another major reason for the construction of the Wall by Ming dynasty, since it was the epoch when the formation of Chinese nation and new ideology based on the concept of uniqueness, difference and superiority of Chinese people compared to Mongols was important to Ming dynasty to maintain its power and influence.
In foreign policy, the construction of the Wall was caused by the attempt of Ming dynasty to solve, at least partially, the problem of Mongols because, by means of the Great Wall of China, Ming dynasty made a clear border line between China and Mongols which also symbolized the unwillingness of Ming court to negotiate with Mongols and have diplomatic relations.
Thus, the Wall was built in order to improve the position of Ming dynasty in China. The wall contributed to the unification of the country, both physical and cultural, that prevented separatist trends within China. Moreover, the Wall separated China from Mongols and this was rather a symbol of the unwillingness or inability of Ming dynasty to solve the existing problems in relations with Mongols than just the strong fortification that could protect the country from the military expansion of its Northern neighbors.
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