Thursday, 30 June 2016

Great Wall

Foreign accounts of the Wall

None of the Europeans in Medieval China, such as Marco Polo, Giovanni da Pian del Carpine, and William of Rubruck, mentioned the Great Wall.

The North African traveler Ibn Battuta heard about China's Great Wall—which he estimated at "sixty days' travel" from Zeitun (modern Quanzhou)—from local Muslim communities in Guangzhou around 1346 and spread its reputation west in his Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling. He associated it with the legend of the wall mentioned in the Qur'an which Dhul-Qarnayn (commonly associated with Alexander the Great) was said to have erected to protect people near the land of the rising sun from the savages of Gog and Magog.

Soon after Europeans reached Ming China by ship in the early 16th century, accounts of the Great Wall started to circulate in Europe, even though no European was to see it with his own eyes for another century. Possibly one of the earliest descriptions of the wall and of its significance for the defense of the country against the "Tartars" (i.e. Mongols), may be the one contained in João de Barros's 1563 Asia. Other early accounts in Western sources include those of Gaspar da Cruz, Bento de Goes, Matteo Ricci, and Bishop Juan González de Mendoza. In 1559, in his work "A Treatise of China and the Adjoyning Regions," Gaspar da Cruz offers an early discussion of the Great Wall. Perhaps the first recorded instance of a European actually entering China via the Great Wall came in 1605, when the Portuguese Jesuit brother Bento de Góis reached the northwestern Jiayu Pass from India. Early European accounts were mostly modest and empirical, closely mirroring contemporary Chinese understanding of the Wall, although later they slid into hyperbole, including the erroneous but ubiquitous claim that the Ming Walls were the same ones that were built by the First Emperor in the 3rd century bce.

When China opened its borders to foreign merchants and visitors after its defeat in the First and Second Opium Wars, the Great Wall became a main attraction for tourists. The travelogues of the later 19th century further enhanced the reputation and the mythology of the Great Wall, such that in the 20th century, a persistent misconception exists about the Great Wall of China being visible from the Moon or even Mars.
Source: Wikipedia
Thanks to JiangYing for the swap!
Sent: 6 June 2016   Received: 21 June 2016   Travelled: 15 days

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