Great Wall of Yan State

Yan State was one of the seven most powerful states during the Warring States Period (475BC-221BC) of the Zhou Dynasty (1046BC-256BC). It bordered Qi State and Zhao State in the south and west, and the Donghu tribe in the north. In order to prevent invasions from its neighbors, the Yan State constructed two stretches of the Great Wall: the Southern Wall, and the Northern Wall.


Southern Great Wall of Yan State

The Southern Wall was built to stop the invasion from the Qi State to its south and the Zhao State to its west. It started at Taihang Mountain in northwestern Yixian County of Hebei Province, traversed southern Yixian County, Xushui, Anxin and Xiongxian County, and turned southeast. Then, it went to Wen'an and Dacheng County, and ended at the Ziya River. The wall had a total length of about 155 miles (250 kilometers), and is reputed to have been built before the reign of King Zhao of Yan (312BC-279BC).

Map of Southern Wall of Yan State
Yan State Southern Great Wall Map

Northern Great Wall of Yan State

During the reign of King Zhao of Yan, the northern Donghu tribe became powerful, posing a threat to Yan State. Thus, the Northern Wall was built to prevent the invasion of the Donghu tribe.

The Northern Wall ran from Zhangjiakou of Hebei Province in the west, via Duolun County in Inner Mongolia, Weichang County in Hebei, Chifeng and Aohan Banner in Inner Mongolia, and entered Chaoyang of Liaoning Province. After going over Yiwulv Mountain and across the Liaohe River, the wall turned southward and ended on the northern bank of the Qingchuan River. The wall was built of local materials, including rammed earth and stones. It is about 7 feet (2 meters) to 13 feet (4 meters) wide, and 10 feet (3 meters) to 16 feet (5 meters) high. There are fortresses and beacon towers along the defensive line. There is no specific record of its construction period, but it is the last Great Wall built during the turbulent Warring States Period.
Yan State Northern Great wall Map
Yan State Northern Wall Map

Relics of Yan State Great Wall

The relics enter Faku County of Liaoning Province from Dongliujiazi Town, Zhangwu County, and stretch eastward, via the northwestern slope of Yemaotai West Mountain and the northern slope of Yemaotai North Moutain. The remaining wall has a total length of 2,187 yards (2,000 meters). It was cut by the 101 National Road into two sections: the rammed earth Yemaotai West Mountain Section and the stone Yemaotai North Mountain Section. The wall has been severely damaged by natural erosion. The stone ruins are only 1.6 feet (0.5 meter) high, and 3 feet (1 meter) wide.

Yan State Great Wall
Yan State Great Wall Relics in Xushui, Hebei

The relics in Shaoguoyingzi Town, Jianping County, Liaoning Province are about 9 miles (15 kilometers) long. They are comparatively well-preserved, especially the section between Zhangjiawan Village and Hamagounao Village. The wall was made of local materials, like rammed earth and stones. Thus it is called "Earth Dragon" or "Stone Dragon" by locals. The wall is about 1.6 feet (0.5 meter) to 5 feet (1.5 meters) high, and 7 feet (2 meters) to 8 feet (2.5 meters) wide.

There are some relics of fortresses. Take the Nanchengzi Fortress in Huojiadi Village, Shaoguoyingzi Town for example. This rectangular fortress is 186 yards (170 meters) long, and 175 yards (160 meters) wide. The wall is about 20 feet (6 meters) wide, and 5 feet (1.5 meters) high. Inside the fortress are several tall rammed earth foundations, which could be ruins of watchtowers. The fortress is connected with the Great Wall in the south.

In addition, some cultural relics have been excavated along the wall, including gray pottery basins, pots, tiles with animal images, and knife-shaped currency.


Urgent Protection is Needed

The 2,300-year-old Great Wall of Yan State suffers a lot from natural erosion and human destruction. For example, the wall in Bangshuiyu Village, Yanqing District, Beijing is constantly washed by rain, only to leave vague ruins on the mountain ridge. The beacon towers have collapsed, and turned into mounds. Furthermore, this ancient heritage is threatened by human activities. Some sections are torn down or cut in the middle for building roads and houses. Some locals demolished the rammed earth wall, and used the earth to make bricks. We should protect this old cultural heritage immediately before its disappearance.

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- Last updated on Jun. 27, 2019 -
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