The Great Wall: A Cultural History by Carlos Rojas

By Carlos Rojas

Carlos Rojas provides a sweeping survey of the old and political importance of 1 of the world’s so much recognizable monuments. even if the attractiveness of the nice Wall has turn into almost synonymous with its big dimension, the structure’s conceptual coherence is admittedly grounded at the tenuous and ephemeral tales we inform approximately it. those tales provide lifestyles to the Wall and aid safe its carry on our collective mind's eye, whereas whilst allowing it to continually reinvent itself according to the wishes of every new period. via an exam of allusions to the Wall in an eclectic array of texts—ranging from respectable dynastic histories, elite poetry, and well known folktales, to modern vacationer testimonials, children’s songs, and avant-garde functionality art—this learn maps out a provocative new framework for knowing the structure’s functionality and value. This quantity methods the Wall in the course of the tales we inform and contends that it truly is accurately during this cultural background that we might locate the Wall’s actual which means, including the key of its greatness. (20110216)

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Even in this discussion, the sheer hyperbole of Jing’s precision appears to suggest an anxiety about the rationale behind the attempt to concretize the length of the Wall—and, spe- A UNITY OF GAPS • 19 cifically, a tension between a desire to regard the structure as a unitary entity and an awareness of its inherent heterogeneity. A similar tension between unity and heterogeneity can be found in the Wall’s current iconic status. The Wall is prominently featured on China’s currency and its foreign visas, in its national anthem, and even in a huge tapestry China presented to the United Nations, though each of these representations also carries a cluster of competing connotations that simultaneously undercut the monument’s ostensible nationalistic significance.

30 • A UNITY OF GAPS The flip side to speculating about imaginary extraterrestrials would be asking how we ourselves perceive the Wall. Are we confident about our own understanding of terms like Great Wall and chang cheng, and can we ever be certain that others understand them the same way we do? Actually, we don’t need to appeal to imaginary Martian astronomers or other extraterrestrials to appreciate some of the practical consequences of the issues Quine raises. We may consider, for instance, a recent book in which William Lindesay juxtaposes photographs of the Wall from the turn of the twentieth century with more recent ones he himself took from almost precisely the same locations.

After unifying their corresponding segments, the teams would be sent to a different location and told to begin the process anew. 16 Kafka posits that the efficacy of the Wall, together with the political coherence of the empire it was designed to protect, is rooted in a tension between the immensity of the structure and the piecemeal process by which it was constructed. He notes that the significance of the Wall lies in its status not as a physical barricade against external invasion, but as a symbol of the structural conditions that help grant the Chinese empire its internal coherence in the first place.

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