(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers studying the Great Wall’s defense system have found traces of more than 130 secret through passages and believe this is just the beginning.
The Great Wall of China is not only one of the most attractive tourist sites in Asia, but also, probably, the least studied archaeological site of those that have been known for centuries.
The fact is that the very idea of preserving this monumental defensive system came to mind only to the associates of Deng Xiaoping in 1984 – before that it simply collapsed.
A research group is now working in China to study the Great Wall: in particular, they compare data known from sources with what can be seen on the spot.
One of the most puzzling questions was the existence of secret, well-camouflaged passages through the wall.
Written sources reported that these secret passages served for the passage of scouts, and some acted as channels for communication between the inner and outer parts of the Great Wall or for trade in ancient times.
Chinese archaeologists have been surveying the surface of the wall for a long time using high-resolution equipment. As a result, they found several sites that they previously considered to be the places of such passages.
Zhang Yukong, a professor at Tianjin University and leader of the research team, noted that according to some official documents from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), nomadic tribes were allowed to use such a secret gate to graze their livestock between northwestern China’s Qinghai province and Hetao, a region with abundant supplies of water and grass at the time.
Some gates were large enough to let two horses through at the same time in opposite directions.
Based on the analysis of the images, the archaeologists chose the sites for field work. Some of the alleged ones have already been initially examined.
It became clear how these gates and doors could be made secret: they are designed in such a way that they blend well with the terrain.
The work of finding secret passages is complicated by the fact that it is very difficult to talk about the Great Wall as a single structure. This is due to the history of its construction.
The first sections of defensive structures were built in the 3rd century BC, during the Warring States period (475-221 BC). Moreover, these walls were erected around themselves by four kingdoms at once – Qin, Wei, Yan and Zhao. They built, frankly, from clay and sticks.
And only under Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the first centralized Chinese state and the founder of the Qin dynasty, these areas were united into a common defense system.
The Qin Empire needed protection from the raids of nomads from the north, so the wall was expanded and strengthened. Stone slabs have already been used in the construction.
Some historians believe that it was the construction of the Great Wall that caused the fall of the Qin empire: too much effort was thrown into this protracted project.
Even if they are right, the subsequent rulers of China did not think so and continued to build, rebuild and strengthen the wall until the Ming Dynasty (XIV-XVII century AD).
As a result, something strange came out: today the Great Wall is a huge complex of defensive structures, but not a single line. In some places, detached towers are generally referred to as this defense system.
The longest continuous section is protected by Beijing. The total length of all branches of the wall is a little more than 21 thousand kilometers.
Without branches, its length is 8850 kilometers, but this number includes ditches and river banks (as natural protective lines), as well as line turns.
In other words, the very history of the construction of the Great Wall prepares researchers for the fact that written sources will report conflicting information, and methods of hiding secret passages in different eras will vary greatly.
In addition to secret doors through which you can get on the other side of the wall, archaeologists have also discovered, let’s say, false walls.
A passage was made in the wall, open from the side of the defenders. And the exit to the side of the enemy is disguised with bricks.
It is almost impossible for attackers to locate the exit from the outside, but when they attack the nearby main passage, defending soldiers can break the gate from the inside like an eggshell and launch a surprise attack.
Such exits are mentioned in documents relating to the reigns of the Tang (618-907), Song (960-1279), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. However, never before have researchers found any physical evidence of the existence of such a camouflaged gate.
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