October 16, 2013

0058, 0151, 0842 CHINA (Shanxi / Inner Mongolia / Hebei) - The Great Wall (UNESCO WHS)

China (and also India) seems to use another scale than Europe. Whether it comes to population, surface, the height of the mountains, the extent of the forests, the rivers flow rate or God knows what something else. One of the figures stuck in my memory for years is 400,000. So many prisoners of war executed a Qin commander after the Battle of Changping, in the 3rd century BC. Burying they alive, but this is another aspect of the story. About the same time, Hannibal slaughtered at Cannae, in probably the most important but also the bloodiest battle of the European antiquity, 70,000 troops, of those 86,000 how many had the fabulous Roman army. As I said, a completely different scale.

Is also the case of the Great Wall of China. In Europe have been also built, mainly by the Romans, extensive fortifications to defend the borders, such as, to give just two examples, Trajan’s Wall (to the today territory of Romania, Moldova and Ukraine) and Hadrian’s Wall (in Roman Britain, at the other edge of the Empire). Both have several tens of km. Great Wall of China has about 6,260 km, if we don't count the tranches and the natural barriers.

When I was a kid, I imagined that the Great Wall is a stone snaking line, continuous from one end to another of northern China, and was built in a relatively short period of time. Great was my surprise when I learned that in fact the wall is a phylum of walls, following different directions and being built (from the materials specific to the traversed areas) during the 2,000 years, since the 5th century BC. The most famous part, which appears in many pictures, was built in the 14th century, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), who attempted to stop the Manchurian and Mongolian tribes who came from the north. As one of the most impressive constructions ever raised by man, The Great Wall couldn't miss in the list of UNESCO World Heritage, in which was included in 1987.

The watchtower at Laoniuwan (Pianguan County, Shanxi) - posted on 03.12.2011
Laoniuwan Valley (located in Pianguan County, Shanxi, and named also "old ox valley", after a hillside that resembles an ox head on its Inner Mongolian side) is considered one of the most beautiful valleys in China because it’s the place where contry's two greatest symbols - the Great Wall and Huang He (the Yellow River) - meet. The Yellow River, the cradle of Chinese civilization, is the second-longest river in China (after the Yangtze) and the sixth-longest in the world. On a cliff located on the bank of Yellow River is a well-kept watchtower (the one that appears in the first postcard) made of bricks, called Wanghe Tower, or "watch river tower". It was built in 1544 by a Shanxi governor and reinforcements were added later. It was used to observe the enemies and sending messages by burning wolf waste.

Pianguan County own a total of 500 km long of Great Wall, including, apart from the most commonly found Ming-dynasty Great Wall, also Great Wall of Zhao States during the Warring States Period (476-221 BC), and Great Walls of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 207 BC) and the Northern Wei Dynasty (386 - 557). Besides the walls, the military defense system also including over 1,000 towers and 49 castles.

The Great Wall at Guantunbu (Fengzhen County, Inner Mongolia) - posted on 21.03.2012

The earliest wall in Inner Mongolia was constructed by the Zhao States during the Warring States Period (476BC - 221BC), from Wei County of Hebei Province in the east to Bayannur of Inner Mongolia in the west. Only certain parts of the wall still stand today, north of Hohhot City (a wall built of rambled earth, as well as bricks at some parts with less earth), and in Baotou (98m long, 5.8m wide and 3.4m high, badly damaged). After Qin Shihuang created the first unified Chinese empire in 221 BC, he sent the general Meng Tian to drive the Xiongnu from the region, and incorporated the old Zhao wall into the Qin Dynasty Great Wall. A section was discovered in Bayannur City and ruins of beacon towers were found every 0.5 km to 1.5 km near the wall. There are also relics of houses, believed to be the military fortress of the wall, at the highland not far from the wall.

On the Worrad Grassland north of Inner Mongolia, two Han Dynasty Great Walls traverse the grassland to the northwest into Mongolia. According to archaeologists, the walls were constructed in 102 BC during the Western Han Dynasty (206BC - 24AD). The one in the north is called the Han Dynasty Outer Great Wall, while the one in the south Han Dynasty Inner Great Wall. The Liao, Jin, and Yuan dynasties, who ruled Northern China throughout most of the 10-13th centuries, had their original power bases north of the Great Wall proper; accordingly, they would have no need throughout most of their history to build a wall along this line. The Liao carried out limited repair of the Great Wall in a few areas, however the Jin (1115-1234) did construct defensive walls in the 12th century, but those were located much to the north of the Great Wall as we know it, within today's Inner and Outer Mongolia.

After the Yuan Dynasty was evicted by the Han-led Ming Dynasty in 1368, the Ming rebuilt the Great Wall at its present location, which roughly follows the southern border of the modern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (though it deviates significantly at the Hebei-Inner Mongolia border). The Ming established the Three Guards composed of the Mongols there. The Great Wall measures 150 km in Qingshuihe County. About 7,000 towers were discovered, including 5,000 beacon towers, 6 fortresses, 5 passes, and many water gates. Most of the towers are well-preserved, and has a width of 15-19m and a height of 20-22m. Many sections of the Great Walls in Inner Mongolia are badly damaged, mainly by wind and sand storm, but also by human. Research shows that 90% of the locals don’t even know the existence of the Great Walls in Inner Mongolia!

The Jinshanling section (Lunaping County, Hebei) - posted on 16.10.2013

This section of the Great Wall, located in the mountainous area in Luanping County, at 125km northeast of Beijing, is connected with the Simatai section to the east, and was first built in the sixth century during the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589). Some distance to the west lies the Mutianyu section. It is 10.5 km long with 5 passes, 67 watchtowers and 2 beacon towers. During the Ming Dynasty, General Qi Jiguang improved the structure of the wall by making it higher and denser, and by building double walls at strategic sections. As can be seen in the postcard, the Jinshanling Great Wall is like a giant dragon, curving its path over the mountain peaks whose line it follows. The Great Wall from Simatai in Beijing to Jinshanling in Hebei is the best preserved stretch, but it isn't fully renovated, so it has a more natural ambience than other stretches of the wall that have been completely rebuilt.

About the stamps
On the poscard 0058
For this wonderful postcard, the sender has used three also marvelous  stamps (many thanks, Yue). The first on the left belongs to Wudalianchi National Park set, consists of three stamps with the same denomination (120 fen), designed by Li Defu and issued on June 19th, 2007:
Heilong Mountain - it’s on this postcard
Sanchi Pool
The Sea of Rock

The second is part of A Folktale: Liu Yi Delivering a Letter set, consists of 4 timbre stamps with the same denomination (80 fen), designed by Xu Yongsheng and issued on July 17th, 2004:
Dragon Princess Asking Liu Yi to Deliver a Letter – it’s on the postcard
Delivering the Letter to Dongting Lake
Family Reunion
Mutual Love
The legend of Liu Yi delivering a letter for the dragon princess has grown in popularity since it was first heard in ancient China. It seems that the story originated during the Tang Dynasty, in the Zhenyuan period (785-805).

The third belongs to Yandi's Mausoleum set, consists of three stamps, designed by Li Defu and issued on October 28, 1998:
Meridian Gate (50 fen)
Saluting Pavillion (100 fen) – it’s on the postcard
Tomb (150 fen)
The Yan Emperor, or Yandi (Flame Emperor) was a legendary Han Chinese ruler who lived in pre-dynastic China. Modern scholarship has identified the Sheep's Head Mountains (in Shanxi Province) as his homeland and territory. Commonly known as the "imperial graves", the Yandi Mausoleum lies in the Zhuangli Village, 17 kilometers northeast of the Gaoping City, Shanxi Province.

On the poscard 0151

The stamp on the back is part of the fourth set of a series depicting birds in China, published between 2002 and 2006 and comprising a total of 9 stamps, designed by Huang Huaqiang:

• Cabot's Tragopan - Tragopan caboti (0.80 CNY)
• Biddulph's Ground Jay - Podoces biddulphi (1.00 CNY) - it's on other postcard
• Taiwan Blue Magpie - Urocissa caerulea (2.00 CNY)
• Przevalski's Redstart - Phoenicurus alaschanicus (4.20 CNY)
• Tibetan Bunting - Emberiza koslowi (5.40 CNY)
• Yellow-bellied Tit - Periparus venustulus (5.00 CNY)
• Yunnan Nuthatch - Sitta yunnanensis (6.00 CNY)
• Chinese Monal - Lophophorus lhuysii (0.40 CNY) - it's on the postcard
• Taiwan Yuhina - Yuhina brunneiceps (1.20 CNY)

On the postcard 0842
If I'm not mistaken, the two stamps form a series of greetings stamps, issued on October 9, 2011. I don't know what depicts the first one, but the second shows undoubtedly a Chinese Hwamei (Garrulax canorus).

Great Wall of China - Wikipedia
The Great Wall - UNESCO official website
Laoniuwan Valley, Yellow River and Great Wall - CCC travel
Ming Dynasty Great Wall - Travel China Guide
Jinshanling - Wikipedia
Jinshanling Great Wall - China.org.cn

Sender 0058, 0151: Yue Ha (direct swap)
0058: sent from Beijing (China), on 05.11.2011
0151: sent from Beijing (China), on 16.02.2012
Photo: Li Shaobai 
Sender 0842: Carey / alala92 (postcrossing)
Sent from Zhūhǎi (Guangdong  / China), on 10.09.2013

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