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A “gripping, colorful” history of China’s Great Wall that explores the conquests and cataclysms of the empire from 1000 BC to the present day (Publishers Weekly).
Over two thousand years old, the Great Wall of China is a symbolic and physical dividing line between the civilized Chinese and the “barbarians” at their borders. Historian Julia Lovell looks behind the intimidating fortification and its mythology to uncover a complex history far more fragmented and less illustrious that its crowds of visitors imagine today.
Lovell’s story winds through the lives of the millions of individuals who built and attacked it, and recounts how succeeding dynasties built sections of the wall as defenses against the invading Huns, Mongols, and Turks, and how the Ming dynasty, in its quest to create an empire, joined the regional ramparts to make what the Chinese call the “10,000 Li” or the “long wall.”
An epic that reveals the true history of a nation, The Great Wall is “a supremely inviting entrée to the country” and essential reading for anyone who wants to understand China’s past, present, and future (Booklist).
There is no Great Wall of China, argues Lovell, who teaches Chinese history at Cambridge University. Instead, there are many Great Walls physical, mental, cultural, military and economic separating China from the outside world. The 4,300-mile-long wall is far more complex than any of the thousands of tourists taking a photo along its famous battlements realizes. Indeed, to the Chinese themselves, their wall has variously signified repression, freedom, security, vulnerability, cultural superiority, economic backwardness, imperial greatness and national humiliation. Still, myths about it abound. Far from it being unbreachable, Chinese emperors relied on the wall only as a last resort to fend off their enemies. (The Ming dynasty, for instance, found it useless against the victorious Manchus, who merely bribed the gatekeepers to let them in.) "As a strategy that has survived for more than two millennia," Lovell writes, "China's frontier wall is a monumental metaphor for reading China and its history, for defining a culture and a worldview...." Lovell tells the gripping, colorful story of the wall up to the present day, including a perceptive discussion of the "Great Firewall" the Internet, which has replaced nomadic raiders as the most threatening of China's attackers. And no, you cannot see it from the Moon.