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0519 Innermost Asia : vol.1
Innermost Asia : vol.1 / Page 519 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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We camped by the small stream that descends from the gorge above Huang-ts`ao-ying, which I had visited in 1907, and on the following morning, after proceeding about two miles, passed through the mediaeval ` Great Wall ' at the village of Yeh-mao-wan. As already correctly determined from a distance during our survey of 1907, the line of the wall here turns sharply at almost a right angle. We found this built of clay here and, as also in many places farther east, reduced merely to a low mound. Considering that it probably dates only from Ming times, this fact illustrates the comparatively rapid decay to which its inferior construction, without layers of fascines or other reinforcing materials, has exposed it. Since the policy of Chinese seclusion, which this wall was intended to serve, continued right down to the second half of the seventeenth century, there can be little doubt that it underwent repeated repairs during the few centuries of its existence as a border barrier.' Such repairs were certainly made easy by the persistence with which this late

Great Wall ' clung, wherever possible, to the immediate vicinity of cultivated ground, with complete disregard of any strategic or tactical advantages that a more advanced line might have offered.8

While the Han Limes and its mediaeval successor showed this striking difference in point of solidity of construction, the intervening fifteen centuries had brought little change in the arrangement of the towers intended for watching the line of wall. The large tower seen in Fig. 224, standing to the east of the spot where the caravan route passes through the line before reaching the fortified Gate station or kuan of Yeh-mao-wan, still retained the guard-room on its top as well as the footholes facilitating access to it. The rope by which the men on guard were expected to clamber up to this room was found still dangling from the summit, in spite of the ruinous condition of the whole structure, just like the ropes which once must have served the soldiers of Han times when mounting guard on their towers.

An easy march from this modest Gate station with its temple and its few somnolent soldiers brought us the same day, past well-tilled fields and walled ` p`u-tzûs ', to Su-chou. The wide bed of its river was still almost dry, a proof that much snow had not yet melted in the high ranges of the Nan-shan that feed it, ranges which I had visited during our explorations of 1907. The change of climate involved by their vicinity soon, however, made itself felt in a violent storm of rain and hail, which overtook us before the city walls were reached. With more rain following during the next few days, I had good reason to welcome the shelter, at once peaceful and airy, that I once more obtained in the dilapidated pavilions of the picturesque temple at Chiu-ch`iian, the ' Fountain of Wine ', my old quarters of 1907.9

Mediaeval Great Wall crossed.

Watch- tower at Yeh-mao- wan.

7 See ibid., iii. pp. 1122 sq. for the origin and purpose of this wall.

8 This can easily be seen by following the line of the wall

north of the oasis of Su-chou, Map No. 43. A, B. I, and north of the Kan-chou river, Maps Nos. 43. D. 1, 2 ; 46. A, B. 2.

9 See Desert Cathay, ii. pp. 236 sqq.