Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Of the city walls of Beijing;

I continued my morning jet-lagged walk around Beijing and found a section of the old city walls. China loves big walls. Everyone knows of the Great Wall of China, but there are so many other walls in China. Many old cities of China have segments of the past defensive walls still standing. Beijing's wall system mainly dates to the 1400s, but over the 20th century there were slowly dismantled to make way for railroads and an inner-city freeway. Now, all that remains are a few sections of wall with several gate and watch towers scattered around the city.

This is the Dongbianmen section of the wall I visited. You can see the restored wall section and the watchtower in the background.
A map of Beijing's old defensive wall system with the Dongbianmen wall section I saw marked.
Some areas of the wall have been restored while others are kept in a crumbling state. The section I visited had a large area which had been made safe to walk atop and an old unrestored section that stretched for another mile through the city. Most noticeable is the 30 meter high watchtower which was first built in 1440. It was a large defensive tower built at the Southeast corner of the city walls. In the past it would have been filled with hundreds of archers ready to fire arrows out from its 144 square windows. Today it is a museum about the city walls of China.

China's largest corner tower.
The same watchtower in 1895. What was once a moat along the wall, is now a small park.
A 1900-1930 shot of the tower with a camel train.

A view looking down the unrestored section of the wall.
The backside of the watchtower.
The walls of Beijing kept invaders out of the city for centuries. It wasn't until the 20th century that walls were taken by foreign armies. In response to the anti-European Boxer Rebellion in China, in 1900 an army of eight European and American armies attacked Beijing. The city walls held for two days against the cannons and 20,000 Anglo troops. The troops overran the wall and entered the city where they looted, raped, and killed before capturing the city and forcing China to pay the equivalent to $60 billion in war reparations.

An American painting showing the August 14th, 1900 Allied Relief Expedition assault on the outer walls of Peking.
A Chinese cannon on the restored wall section.
The damaged tower after several days of bombardment.
When the Anglo forces took over this section of the wall they carved their names and dates into the walls bricks. The Chinese call it "criminal evidence left by the Russian and American invaders."
One of the buildings on the wall.
After the Anglo invasion in 1900 arches were cut into the wall to open the city up to the growing rail system.

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