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How the Great Wall Functions for Defense

Back in ancient times, the Great Wall played an important role in defending the capital city. Specifically, the function of the Great Wall mainly lies in: on one hand, the Great Wall served as efficient defense toward the attackers, one the other hand, it bluffed the attackers with its magnificence and grandeur.

Great Wall of China

The reason why the Great Wall could carry out efficient defense is because it was built mainly to stop the Mongolian rivalry. The Mongolian rivalry was very good at blitz attack, which means they are very quick while carrying out military operations, compared with the inland army mainly made of infantry. It would be extremely difficult to defend the Mongolian rivalry without the Great Wall as fortification. The fact had been seen as early as the Han Dynasty, when the famous official Chaocuo offered his advice in his letter to the emperor. The main idea of the letter says that the Mongolian army was very quick to attack and retreat from the border, and if no army sent over there to defend them, the border residences would be disappointed in the jurisdiction of Han government; if the army was sent over there, but the Mongolian army was nowhere to be seen. So he strongly suggested that the best way to defend the Mongolian attackers would be to build the Great Wall. About 1,000 years later, the famous general Qi Jiguang also commented that the most effective way to defend the Mongolian rivalry would be to build a defensive system made of the Great Wall, therefore the Mongolian rivalry would be blocked outside the wall and could not fully make the most use of their advantage.

The rivalry is very aggressive when engaged in battles. When the rivalry attacks, the infantry stands little chance of winning a battle, just the infantry of today facing the tanks. However, the construction of the Great Wall changed everything. According to records, back in West Han Dynasty, the Mongolian army had attempted to attack the Great Wall for many times, but ended up with failure. The main reason was because back then the Han Dynasty had built an advanced defensive system based on the Great Wall and there were plenty of defensive facilities built on the wall, like the beacon towers, watch towers and crenels as well as passes.

On the other hand, the magnificent Great Wall also caused some inferiority in the mind of the attackers. There are many records left to indicate the attack from the Mongolian tribes became less and less during some certain dynasties.