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What reasons lay behind the appearance of more Long Walls?

By William Lindesay

August 17

After construction of the Walled Square of Chu many more ‘new era’ Long Walls were built from the late fourth century B.C..

After construction of the Walled Square of Chu many more ‘new era’ Long Walls were built from the late fourth century B.C..

After construction of the Walled Square of Chu many more ‘new eraLong Walls were built from the late fourth century B.C..

Broadly speaking, three factors led to the increased use of Long Walls during this period: the expansion of larger state entities, sweeping changes in military strategy and the availability of new technological capabilities.

[Photo provided to China.org.cn by William Lindesay]

With greater productive capacities from larger grouped populations, monarchical societies could enable the organization of ever larger armies to secure and expand territorial domains. Stronger states conquered weaker ones, and consolidated their ownership of land by Long Wall constructions. Moreover, a distinct change in warfare style occurred at this time. Use of the chariot – confined to flatter ground – waned, while use of cavalry and infantry, favored for their superior mobility, increased. Battlegrounds became undefined rather than predetermined: combat began to occur everywhere and involved pursuit, while ambush and deception replaced the earlier rules of chivalry. Long Walls in conflict zones – border areas – that were routed cross country and exploited the lie of the land were valued as advantageous against these new threats.

Finally, technological innovation in weaponsmaterials and widespread, high- volume manufacturing proliferated the means of war and also made large-scale building projects, which required better tools, more feasible. Conflicts increased markedly in the wake of higher quality weapons production triggered by the dawn of the Iron Age, occurring during the early fifth century B.C. in China. The same revolution led to the manufacture of higher quality tools, which benefited construction. Wall builders could use agricultural iron hoes and shovels for moving earth, and axes with strong, sharp heads to split and shape rock. A feature of some Long Walls built during the Warring States Period is that their material includes rock that was purpose-quarried. 

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