History : Mar-Apr 2016
using grappling hooks to climb the wall. But just as they reached the top, the snorting of their horses alerted the Chinese guards. Watchers on the Wall The lives of the guards stationed along the wall’s vast length were extremely tough. In 1443 a doc- ument from the Ministry of the Army admit- ted that “soldiers on the northwest border are exposed to wind and cold. Whether they serve as watchmen on the signal towers or guards in the passes . . . they may be away from their base, family, and children for months or years, and are often lacking for clothing and food. It is true they are paid monthly but they often have to spend their money on weapons or horses. Their suf- fering from hunger and cold is indescribable.” These harsh living conditions could partly ex- plain the low morale among the soldiers. There is evidence of widespread distrust between civil brick. An astonishing 5,000 miles in length, the new fortifications were vastly more ambitious than any of the previous structures, costing as much as a hundred times more than earlier walls, according to some chroniclers. The Ming rulers were determined their wall would withstand both nomadic aggression and the slower assaults of weather and time. So far, its victory against erosion is an un- qualified success. The barrier’s military effec- tiveness, however, is somewhat harder to assess. China’s northern border continued to suffer a very large number of attacks. Sometimes these were undertaken by armies numbering as many as 100,000 men, as well as by smaller groups of nomads. One example of the latter took place in Wo Yan in 1555, when a score of Mon- gol warriors attacked a tow- er in the middle of the night SEEING RED A glittering emblem of Ming majestic power, the scarlet throne room in the Imperial Palace was built in 1406. Here, the emperor granted audiences and met with advisers. A1PIX ZHU YUANZHANG, FOUNDER OF THE MING DYNASTY. BRIDGEMAN/ACI ILLUSTRATION:STEVENOON/OSPREYPUBLISHING 38 MARCH/APRIL 2016 Sending subsidies and luxury goods to the Mongols was hoped to reduce attacks.