Even though people celebrate the Great Wall as a magnificent national heritage, within the walls lie mixed tales of pain, anguish, bloodshed, triumph and regret. These tales, are in the form of myths and legends explaining how some of the prominent features of the wall came to be. Some are familiar stories, while others assert the contribution of a supernatural hand in the construction of the Great Wall of China. Though these legends are numerous, all serve to keep the Chinese Culture and history alive. The following are a few of the interesting myths about the Great Wall of China.
Myth of the Meng Jiangnu
The legend holds that during the Qin Dynasty, the federal officials arrested a peasant by the name of Fan Qiliang, the husband of Meng Jiangnu, and forcefully sent him to build the wall. After many days of unsuccessfully trying to locate her husband, Meng Jiangnu finally reached the Great Wall. Unfortunately, by the time she got to where her husband worked, she discovered that he was no more. The demise of Fan Qiliang distressed her greatly, and she wept bitterly. Her wailing was so loud that it caused some parts of the great Wall to collapse.
The Jiayuguan Pass
The tale is about a proficient arithmetician during the Ming Dynasty, called Yi Kaizhan. Yi Kaizhan was so gifted that he projected it would require 99,999 bricks to construct the Jiayuguan Pass. The supervisor at that time, perhaps driven by envy of the mathematician’s talent, did not only doubt him but threatened to punish all the workers with three years of hard labor in case Yi Kaizhan’s calculation was wrong even if by one brick. Surprisingly, to the delight of the supervisor, one stone remained behind the Xiwong City Gate after the completion of the project. Just as the supervisor was about to make good his threat, Yi Kaizhan proclaimed that a supernatural being placed the brick there to prevent the wall from collapsing. To date, the brick is still on the Jiayuguan Pass tower.
Metal Soup Great Wall
This myth is about the construction of the Huanghuacheng Great Wall located sixty kilometers north of downtown Beijing. During the Ming Dynasty, the emperor ordered General Cai Kai to oversee the building of the Wall. The wall took many years to finish, and immediately after completion, General Cai Kai, went to the capital to update the emperor of the accomplishment. Ironically, Emperor Wanli instantly put him to death. Apparently, the emperor’s ministers had misled the emperor into believing the general had wasted money and done a shoddy work. Later on, however, the Emperor discovered he was lied to as the Huanghuaheng Great Wall was not only solid but the best workmanship his eyes had ever seen. Remorsefully, he ordered the building of a tomb and memorial in honor of the General. The Emperor also wrote the words “Jin Tang”(Metal Soup) on a huge rock below the wall, to indicate the wall was solid and firm.
The Happy Meeting Fortress
There is an interesting tale of how the Happy Meeting or the Xifeng Kou Fortress came to be. During the wall construction times, soldiers had to stay on guard throughout the year without leaving their duty. Being distant from family members obviously was distressing. A father whose son, the only surviving family member, was guarding the wall couldn’t stand being apart from his son. So he set on a journey to locate his son who was defending the Northern Territory of the wall. He managed to find his child, and they embraced happily. In their mixed emotion of laughter, joy, grief, and relief, they both collapsed and died on the spot. Those who witnessed the ordeal were not only shocked but surprised. In memory of the loving father and his son, they named fortress where the two met Xifeng Kou, and their burial place, the Xifeng Kou Pass.
The Ten Brothers
This myth holds that there were ten brothers each gifted differently. The eldest could hear voices from long distances while the second one could see an object from as far as 500km away. The third son was as strong as a bull, and the fourth had a head as hard as steel. The fifth brother’s body was steel-hard, and the sixth had very long legs. The seventh had a gigantic head, while the eighth had incredibly large feet. The ninth and the youngest brothers had a large mouth and enormous eyes respectively.
Now, one day as the brothers were working on their farm, the eldest brother heard cries. Upon looking, the second brother observed the calls for help were coming from hunger-stricken Great Wall Builders. Angry about the situation, the third brother went to help the workers, but the officials chopped off his head. Annoyed, the fifth brother dashed to aid his brother, but the officials decided to drown him in the sea. Fortunately for him, the sixth brother had long legs and was able to save him from drowning. In the process, the sixth brother caught about 30kg of fish, which the seventh brother scooped with his big hat. The ninth brother swallowed all the fish in one bite causing the youngest brother to cry. Since he had big eyes, his tears resulted in the flooding and ruining of some sections of the Great Wall. It explains why sections of the Huanghuacheng Great Wall is partially under water.
Whether these myths are just stories or they took place for real is hard to tell. But they make visiting the Great Wall a magical experience.