Great Wall of Chu State

The Chu State was one of the powerful states of the turbulent Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-276BC) of the Zhou Dynasty. Inspired by fortifications of Prehistoric Times (1.7 million years ago- the 21st century BC), this defensive wall was constructed to shore up its territory and defend against attacks from other states.


Facts of the Chu State Great Wall 

 Initially built in the 7th century BC, the wall has a history of about 2,700 years. It has been proven to be the earliest Great Wall in China.

 The whole defensive system resembles a "∩" shape, almost forming a square, hence the name "Square Wall". Its total length is 310 miles (500 kilometers).

 The main constructions are passes instead of wall. There were more than 700 pass cities at once, which varied in size according to the number of soldiers and the rank of the military officials. The large pass cities, like Zhoujiazhai, are located on the essential roads, while smaller ones are located at the precipitous and secret spots. The pass cities are square in shape. Ancient people believed that the heaven is round and the earth is square. So the buildings are mostly square.

 At inaccessible high mountains and torrential rivers, no wall or pass was built, in order to save construction materials. Mountains and rivers were used as natural barriers. The dangerous terrain and the solid human construction worked together, forming a defensive line.

 Construction materials were acquired locally. As the wall mainly crawls across the Funiu Mountain, most of the wall was built with stones. In areas without abundant stones, earth or a combination of earth and stones were used.

Chu State Great Wall Map
Chu State Great Wall Map

∩-Shaped Great Wall

The Great Wall of Chu State runs from Zhuxi County of Hubei Province, crosses Hanjiang River, and enters Dengzhou of Henan Province. Then, it runs northward via Neixiang County, Nanzhao County, Lushan County, to the Shahe River. Afterwards, it turns southward to Tongbai County by way of Biyang County, forming a giant "∩". It consists of the West Line, the North Line, and the East Line. The North Line between Nanzhao County and Lushan County has a single wall. However, both the West Line and the East Line have two walls. There may be two reasons behind this. First, after defeating the Shen State, the Chu State constructed the inner wall on the territory of the former Shen State. Thereafter, it continued to expand its territory, and built the outer wall. Secondly, the Chu State built two walls at some strategic points, such as ancient roads, passes, and estuaries, to strengthen the defense. 

Relics of the Chu State Great Wall

 The relics are mainly distributed in the southern part of Henan Province, more specifically, in 24 counties and districts of four cities, including Nanyang, Pingdingshan, Zhumadian, and Xinyang. Most sections were made of stones, with no filler between the stones. The stone wall relics in Nanzhao County are 10 feet (3 meters) to 13 feet (4 meters) high. The relics made of stones and rammed earth are lower. Only a few sections totally made of rammed earth have been found, including the Yeniuling Section in Nanzhao County, the Nancheng Section in Yexian County, and the Daguankou Section in Fangcheng County. The wall in Nanzhao County is the best-preserved section, with many relics and passes.

 Zhoujiazhai, also known as Jindou Pass, is the most representative pass city of Chu. It sits on the crest of Huashan Mountain in Banshanping Town, Nanzhao County. It is famous for its large scale and complicated structure. The stone wall, 12 miles (20 kilometers) long, connects the nearby six peaks, forming a pass city of 4,942 acres (20 square kilometers). Even today, one can find some parapets and observation holes on the wall. The Zhoujiazhai Pass City had two gates: the western Daqing Gate and the eastern Dajun Gate. The Daqing Gate defends the ancient road leading to Mashankou Town in Neixiang County. The Dajun Gate protected the ancient road in the east, but the stone arched gate is long since gone. There are three forts inside the pass city, namely Wangjiazhai Fort, Lujiazhai Fort, and Huajiazhai Fort. These minor forts worked with the major pass city during wartime, making Zhoujiazhai safe and sound.

Urgent Protection is Needed

The Great Wall of the Chu State is seen as an invaluable treasure by experts and archeologists, but to locals, it is only a wall made of rammed earth or stones. In summer, it is engulfed by exuberant woods and weeds. In winter, locals build fires to keep warm at the foot of the wall. The wall also suffers from other human activities. Locals bring the wasteland under cultivation after tearing down the wall, and they dig holes at the foot of the wall in search of scorpions, a kind of Chinese medicine. What's worse, mining, building roads, houses, and power stations pose a great threat to this time-honored heritage. Additionally, natural erosion is an important factor. Storms, earthquakes, and lightning strikes are speeding up the wall's disappearance.

Fortunately, the locals in Nanzhao County have recognized the importance of this wall, and have started to protect it. They have ascended the mountain ridges and gathered a lot of information about the relics. Nevertheless, the protection of this widely-distributed heritage needs personnel and financial support from the government. Let's act now to protect it before it is gone forever.

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- Last updated on Sep. 09, 2020 -
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