The Great Wall of China has been researched for decades, but modern technology is now unveiling its secrets. In this National Geographic special, archaeologist Allan Maca, an expert in ancient civilizations, leads a team of intrepid professionals on an epic journey to solve puzzles, uncover secrets, and expose stunning treasures of Ancient China like never before. 

About the documentary

The Great Wall, Kublai Khan’s mythical lost city, and a newly-discovered city from 4,000 years ago are all included in this documentary series, which takes viewers back in time to see aerial video of how older landscapes in China were created. 

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The Great Wall of China _ ©www.natgeotv.com/za/shows/natgeo/ancient-china-from-above

This season, archaeologist and ancient civilizations specialist Dr. Allan Maca studies China’s distant history from an entirely new perspective: space. From the world’s largest man-made monument, the Great Wall, just outside Beijing, to creative and unusual agricultural practises, this season explores how China has revolutionised its cities and infrastructure in three decades while maintaining its strong traditions. 

About the episode

Dr. Allan Maca analyses the world’s largest man-made construction, the Great Wall of China, in this episode. Experts have been studying this ancient monument for decades, but it’s only now that its secrets are being exposed, due to new satellite photos and cutting-edge technology.

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Dr. Allan Maca _ ©www.natgeotv.com/za/shows/natgeo/ancient-china-from-above

Archaeologist Allan Maca leads a group of brave professionals on an epic journey to solve puzzles, uncover secrets, and showcase ancient China’s incredible treasures like never before. They will uncover palaces and tombs, enormous megastructures, and even entire long-lost towns, guided by photographs from space, cutting-edge technology on the ground, and the most recent digs by Chinese archaeologists. 

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Mongol Khanates _ ©www.natgeotv.com/za/shows/natgeo/ancient-china-from-above

They discovered fresh information about The Great Wall of China, debunked Xanadu myths, and located evidence of ancient civilisations along the way—finds that are altering history. Maca and his crew set out to resurrect a long-lost ancient planet that was previously unseen by the human eye. 

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Representation of the investigations _ ©www.natgeotv.com/za/shows/natgeo/ancient-china-from-above

They investigated previously unknown cultures, lost cities, and devastating cataclysms with the help of leading Chinese experts. They travelled to some of the country’s most remote and incredible landscapes and used cutting-edge science to investigate previously unknown cultures, lost cities, and devastating cataclysms.

The Great Wall of China

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The Great Wall of China _ ©www.natgeotv.com/za/shows/natgeo/ancient-china-from-above

The Great Wall, located three hours north-east of Beijing, is an iconic structure that epitomises China. And the province of Hebei is where you’ll discover the most ancient section of it. Liang Quingli has always lived in the region. He has established himself as the monument’s self-assigned protector after falling in love with it. He has spent the last 10 years working for an NGO dedicated to the preservation of the Great Wall.

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The Great Wall of China made of stones _ ©www.natgeotv.com/za/shows/natgeo/ancient-china-from-above

The stone sentry was built over a period of 2,000 years and is made up of numerous large walls, some of which date back to the fifth century B.C. To secure the nascent empire from invading northern tribes, Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor, ordered these previous lengthy wall sections joined and enlarged with watchtowers. Successive emperors and dynasties carried on the work, expanding westward into the Gobi desert to protect the Silk Road. The walls may have spanned more than 30,000 km in all.

According to Ng, the building and engineering skills throughout ancient China as well as its military history and strategies can be applauded considering the main motive of the walls to be defensive structures. 

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Material of the wall _ ©www.natgeotv.com/za/shows/natgeo/ancient-china-from-above

The first parts of the wall were made of rammed earth and native resources, such as red palm fronds from the Gobi desert, wild poplar logs from the Tarim Basin, and reeds from Gansu. Many of these parts have faded over time; the Great Legacy of an Ancient Time Wall as we know it dates mostly from the 14th to the 17th century during the Ming dynasty. From Shanhaiguan Pass on the Bohai Sea to Jiayuguan Pass in the Gobi, the Ming wall runs about 4,500 kilometres.

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Dr. Allan with the wall_ ©www.natgeotv.com/za/shows/natgeo/ancient-china-from-above

The Ming dynasty built walls 20 feet wide at the base and over 30 feet high that snake around the steep mountain slopes north of Beijing, layering stone and brick over packed earth. The wall is a place for introspection, surrounded by misty green hills with watchtowers that fade under low-hanging clouds. The feeling of antiquity and the artistry required to create it pervades the old stones.

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Dr. Allan _ ©www.natgeotv.com/za/shows/natgeo/ancient-china-from-above

Stone slabs about seven feet long and weighing a tonne were dragged up the steep slope by forced labourers using pulleys. For fast communication, 10,000 watchtowers and beacon towers are placed every 200 to 300 yards. Soldiers later employed fire and smoke signals to advertise the magnitude of an opposing force, replacing drums as the primary mode of communication before 200 BC. Should the necessity arise, each tower along the wall had a ready supply of burnable materials. The sound of cannons signalled impending peril during the Ming dynasty.

Chinese culture_ ©www.natgeotv.com/za/shows/natgeo/ancient-china-from-above

“Everyone who visits the Great Wall for the first time is impressed, from youngsters to adults, from casual visitors to scholars,” says Henry Ng, the World Monuments Fund’s China project manager. “The structure’s size helps youngsters appreciate human history’s major achievements—from the Great Wall to the Great Pyramids—and can motivate them to study more about human triumphs over millennia.”

Author

Rajita Jain is an architect by profession who engages with the dynamics of urban spaces and the people. She aims at developing ways of amalgamating cultural and traditional beliefs with modern day technology to give the urban fabric a vernacular sensitivity.

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