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This is an extract from the Reading Materials in English that are available in the English and Education section of the website of the Liberal Party of  Sri Lanka,  

The entire text of Historical Buildings by Goolbai Gunasekara, covering twelve famous constructions, is now available on that website.  

The Great Wall seen from a satellite in space

The Great Wall of China is said to be the only man made object we can see from space. It stretches 1400 miles over mountains, plains and rivers. It was built by Emperor Shih Huang Ti around the year 214 BC. 

China’s history was always influenced by geography. It is a very large country. This has made it very difficult to conquer, but also very difficult to unite. China is protected from invaders by mountains in the South and West. However, no such protection exists in the North. 

Shih Huang Ti - first emperor of China


When Shih Huang Ti became king, he was determined to create a nation and rule as a strong king. He realized though, that he could not unite China through force alone. So he ordered all the rulers of the little Kingdoms, into which the country was divided, to live at his capital. This way he was able to keep an eye on them. He also won the loyalty of the peasants by allowing them to own the land they work on. But Shih Huang Ti was also a cruel king. He killed anyone who criticized him. 460 scholars were buried alive because they had dared to tell him he was wrong. He burnt their books and sent other scholars to work on his wall. 

The wall began because of a dream which Shih Huang Ti had. He dreamt that barbarians from the North would invade his country unless he built a great wall. He collected 300,000 workmen, peasants and prisoners and made them into a construction team. Work on the wall began. 

The work was very hard and the workers were badly treated. Many of them died of starvation and weakness. They were buried inside the wall and stones laid around their bodies. The Great Wall has therefore been called ‘The longest graveyard in the world’. 

The Emperor had heard something else about the wall. Some soothsayer had told him that unless 10,000 people were buried in the wall it would not be finished. There is a story that the cruel Emperor found a man whose name Wan meant 10,000. He buried him in the rampart and the work continued. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

August 2010
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