Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Great Wall is becoming a great pain in the arse

In the US, the "Culture Wars" are fought over gay marriage, abortion rights, and whether it's okay to pray in class or at football games. In East Asia, the "Culture" part relates to claims over ancient peoples — were the Koguryo folks Korean or Manchurian (and therefore "Chinese")? — and the "war" part has the potential to become the real type if the historical claims spill over into territorial claims.

Against that backdrop, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that some Chinese cultural experts are claiming that the Great Wall of China (and Manchuria and Mongolia and perhaps Korea) is about 2.5 times longer than previously thought — three times the width of the United States — if piles of stones capable of blocking horses are counted:
Zhang Lingmian was collecting walnuts in the countryside north of Beijing last autumn when a friend from a nearby village mentioned a mysterious structure in the mountains that had stumped locals.

The retired cultural heritage official and his friend scampered uphill for two hours, whacking their way through the brambles after the path ran out. At the top of a 2,700-foot-high ridge, they reached a long trail of haphazardly placed rocks.

Zhang says he immediately recognized what villagers called "the strange stones."

"I knew right away it had to be part of the Great Wall of China," Zhang recalled on a recent hike to show off his discovery, about 50 miles from central Beijing.

Although most of the rocks had tumbled down, a few piles reached up to Zhang's chest. "The walls just had to be high enough to keep the barbarians from crossing with their horses," explained Zhang, who says he has been studying the wall for 33 years.

The Great Wall of China may be one of the most recognizable structures on Earth, but it is still in the process of revealing new layers of itself — to cries of disbelief and fury in some quarters. At a time when Beijing is asserting its territorial borders in the South China Sea, the discoveries are not universally applauded.
More to the point for this blog, Korean historians are in an uproar because the supposed Chinese wall stretches all the way to the North Korean border — an area of the People's Republic of China that is not native to the Han Chinese and was once part of the ancient Korean kingdom of Palhae and Koguryo.

Funny that the main part of the Great Wall was intended to keep out the invaders whose territory China now claims as their own in order to justify their cultural (and territorial) designs.

The Not-All-That-Great Wall of China

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