[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
The tears of Meng Jiang Nu
The tears of Meng Jiang Nu
From the time of Huang Di (Yellow Emperor) more than 4600
years ago, there had been continuous violent conflicts between
the agricultural Han Chinese in what is modern China and the non-Han
Chinese herdsmen living in the north. All along the ill-defined
ecological border of North China, pillagings and plunderings committed
by the non-Han Chinese went unabated through the centuries. This
constant menace resulted in enormous efforts to defend the country
against the marauding herdsmen.
In 246BC a very clever and capable but rude man became the ruler of
the State of Qin. He was Ying Zheng (259BC to 210BC) and had a vision that
one day he would conquer all the other States in the land and unite this
vast land into one big empire. He accomplished his vision in 221BC after
conquering and subjucating all the other states in the land.
He adopted the title of First Emperor of Qin (Qin Shi Huang Di). He
established the Qin Dynasty (221BC to 207BC). At about the same time the
various non-Han tribes in the north also united themselves into a large
political union which proved to be a formidable antagonist to the Qin
Empire. The strife between the Han Chinese farmers and the non-Han nomads
intensified. At times the Qin armies drove their nomadic rivals back to
the desert but the intrusions continued.
In 214BC, to secure the northern frontiers, Qin Shi Huang Di ordered
his greatest general, Meng Tian (known for his invention of the Chinese
character brush made of animal hair), to mobilize all the able-bodied
subjects in the country to build a long, long wall from the sea in the
east to the desert in the west.
Thousands upon thousands of men were conscripted and forced to march
north to work on the construction. These workers were generally subjected
to great hardships. Up in the mountain wilderness, usually dressed only in
rags they had to endure the bitterly cold northern winter, frequent hunger,
exhaustion and cruel supervisors. Sadly, untold numbers died from a
combination of all these factors.
The Great Wall, for all its majesty, is today a silent monument to
faceless men and untold stories of unimaginable hardship, cruelty and
starvation. Fable along with fact has survived to this day and the story
of Meng Jiang Nu is one of the all-time favourites.
Meng Jiang Nu was a woman of exceptional beauty. She married a man by
the name of Wan Xi Liang, who was shortly afterwards drafted by the Qin
authorities and pressed into work gangs.
Meng Jiang Nu had no news about her husband and she began to harbour the
worst fears about the safety and well-being of her husband. Months later,
talk was rife in her village that construction of the Great Wall had reached
an adavanced stage. Men were working in the far north where the winters were
freezing cold and hunger and exhaustion common place.
Meng Jiang Nu made a quilted suit and boots for her husband. But there
was no one to take the warm clothing to him. The roads to the north were
long and tortuous and passed through many unknown regions. But her longing
for her husband was so strong that she decided to undertake the dangerous
journey by herself.
Meng Jiang Nu started the arduous journey by walking in a general
northerly direction and plotting the route as she went along. She walked and
walked. She climbed mountain after mountain. She crossed river after river.
Despite suffering from hunger, blistered feet and the biting cold weather
she continued obstinately along her journey.
Finally, she arrived at her destination after seemingly unsurmountable
odds. She knew then that the monstrous construction which twisted like a
snake and disappeared in the distant mountains was the Great Wall.
Relief soon gave way to anxiety. Every worker she met and asked, knew
nothing about the whereabouts of her husband. Day after day she persisted
with her enquiries but drew a blank every time. Nobody seemed to know her
husband. Finally she came to a group of workers who had worked with her
husband before. They told her that Wan Xi Liang had died of exhaustion after
days of continuous hard labour without a break. They also told her that he
had been buried under the Great Wall. She asked to be led to the section of
the wall under which her husband was entombed. Arriving at the spot she
began to cry. She cried and cried. She cried unceasingly for many days and
many nights. Her grief was so great that God had pity on her. It raised a
big snow storm. The section of the wall under which Wan Xi Liang was buried
collapsed, delivering forth her husband's body.
"THE Great Wall was torn down by the tears of Meng Jiang Nu"
The news spread far and wide throughout the country.
The reports of the fallen wall reached the Qin Court. Emperor Ying Zheng
was shocked and in disbelief. He wanted to go and witness the spectacle
for himself. He travelled north to see the woman whose tears were so
powerful that they could tear down his wall.
When Emperor Ying Zheng confronted Meng Jiang Nu, he was surprised to
see the bewildering beauty before him. He was awe-struck and speech
deserted him. Finally, he simply said to her,
"You are so beautiful.
You are like a fairy.
I want to marry you".
Meng Jiang Nu responded immediately and pondered. What would she achieve
if she were to accept his proposal? Nevertheless, she reluctantly agreed
to marry him. But he had to grant her three wishes. Firstly, she wanted
her late husband's body to be placed in a lanmu wood coffin. Secondly,
she wanted the Emperor to give her husband a state funeral. Finally he
and all his ministers and generals to mourn for her husband. Emperor Ying
Zheng gladly agreed to all three conditions.
The funeral was arranged exactly as Meng Jiang Nu desired. Behind the
coffin walked the Emperor and all his ministers and generals. The spot
she chose as her husband's final resting place was an overhanging cliff
under which was the river with roaring water. The funeral party arrived at
Emperor Ying Zheng and all his ministers and generals stood solemnly at
the grave side of Wan Xi Liang.
With her husband finally laid to rest, Meng Jiang Nu stopped weeping.
She slowly rose from her kness and with a last glance at her husband's
grave, threw herself into the bottom of the cliff.
Years later, people built a shrine in her cherished memory at the very
spot where she committed the ultimate sacrifice. The shrine is believed to
be still standing to this today.
When all the walls were eventually connected they formed an incredibly
long wall and came to be called "Wan Li Chang Cheng " (Ten Thousand Li
Long Wall). It measured more than 4800 li and became a permanent barrier
separating the agricultural Han Chinese to the south and the the nomadic
horse-mounted herdsmen to the north.
It is an awe-inspiring sight even after so many centries. When orbiting
the globe an astronuant up in the space said,
"The Great Wall of China is the only construction on earth
erected by man that can be seen from here".
Shi Ji (historical records).
A Chinese folklore.
CHUNG Yoon-Ngan. firstname.lastname@example.org