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Monday, December 10, 2012

By R. Ann Siracusa

Since the Great Wall of China plays both physical and metaphorical roles in my recently released novel Destruction Of The Great Wall  (third novel in the romantic suspense series Tour Director Extraordinaire), I want to share some information about this historic monument.

Actually, monument isn't the correct word for the Great Wall of China. It isn't a single unbroken wall that stretches 5,500 miles.across northern China, but segments of walls built by different rulers at different period of time in Chinese history. As with anything that's old and lasts for a long time, there are myths about the great wall.

In my novel, the heroine, Harriet, is the catalyst that helps destroy the great wall blocking the hero's emotions and part of his memory. She also does some physical damage to the wall with an assault rifle.

Can You See The Great Wall From The Moon?

The best know myth about the Great Wall is it can be seen with the naked eye from the moon. Is that true?
In short, NASA says, "no." The wall is an average of 30 feet wide. According to calculations, it would have to be 70 miles wide to be seen by the naked eye from the moon, and then only under certain conditions. There is lot of information about how the rumor got started going as far back as William Stukeley in 1754, all the way to Halliburton's 1938 Second Book of Marvels.

The Legend of Meng Jiangnü

This legend of love and devotions tells of a young man of the Qin dynasty named Liang Fanqi who was sent by the Emperor to work on the great wall. He escaped, ran, and hid in a private garden. There he met the property owner's daughter, Meng Jiangnü.
They fell in love and married, apparently never leaving Meng's house. Eventually, the Emperor's guard found Lian Fanqui, captured him, and sent him back to work on the construction.

The young bride waited day after day for him to return until winter came. Resigned, she made some warm clothes to take to her husband. When she arrived at the construction site and couldn't find Liang Fanqi, she was told he had died and his body was built into the Great Wall.

Meng Jiangnü wept day and night by the wall. Deeply moved by her bitter tears and deep love, a 400 kilometer section of the Great Wall collapsed, exposing the bones and bodies of the many men who had died building the wall. Meng Jiangnü cut her fingers and dripped blood on the dead bodies until her blood started flowing when she passed over the body of her husband. Then she buried him and drowned herself.

Another version has the Emperor coming to see the damage her tears did to the wall, and when he saw Meng Jiangnü, he wanted to marry her. Then she drowns herself.

Not exactly a Cinderella story.

Operas and plays are based on this legend throughout China.  There are many temples built in her memory, including the one at Shanhai Pass, which is still in good condition. 

    Temple at Shanhai Pass                                    

"Metal Soup" Great Wall

This story tells of the construction of the Huanghuacheng section of the Great Wall on the outskirts of Beijing. The name means Yellow Flower fortress because in the summer these hills are covered by yellow flowers.
During the Ming Dynasty, a general name Cai Kai was ordered by the emperor to build this section of the wall. The general was meticulous regarding quality control and expenditures and it took years of hard labor to complete the section.
When the Ministry of War heard of the cost to build the Huanghuacheng section, they beheaded Cai Kai. Soon after, the emperor realized that this portion of the wall was exceptionally solid and steep, and knew he had wronged Cai Kai.

He later built a tomb to commemorate the general's great contribution and had someone engrave Jintang (Metal Soup) into a rock to describe the strength of this part of the wall. So, today the Huanghuacheng wall is also referred to as "Metal Soup" Great Wall.

Happy Meeting Mouth

There is an underwater section of the Great Wall in Hebei Provence called Xinfengkou, which means Happy Meeting Mouth. (What that means, I'm not sure). This legend tells of a young man taken away to work on the Great Wall.
When winter came and he failed to return, his father went to the site to look for him. (Are we beginning to see a pattern here?) They ran into each other by chance at Songting Hill, later named Xifengkou Pass. They were so happy to see each other, they laughed themselves to death and were buried at this pass.

I didn't find any happy legends about the Great Wall.  Does that tell you something?


By R. Ann Siracusa

Book 3 - Tour Director Extraordinaire Series


I’m Harriet Ruby, Tour Director Extraordinaire.  At last, one of my fondest wishes has come true!  Will Talbot, my favorite Super Spy and the love of my life, wants to include me in his covert mission to recover a list of double agents for the US government.

Wow!  Usually, I want to know everything, and he can’t tell me anything.  Now, I’ll be part of the action.  I am so-o going to love this!

Not that I have a big role.  I only have to pretend we’re husband and wife when he accompanies me on my China tour.  The tour group members are strangers we’ll never see again, and we can spend three intimate weeks together.

I mean, how hard can that be? 

Surprise, surprise!  My parents show up on the tour as replacements for some cancellations.  Now, we have to lie and tell them we’re married to protect Will’s cover.

And then, other problems erupt when someone tries to kill me and terrorists kidnap me and my mother to lure Will into a trap.  Not to mention the damage my assault rifle does to the Great Wall . . . .

Oh, man.  It wasn’t my fault.  Really!


“Get down!”  Will yelled over his shoulder.  He fired off a six-shot burst as he dropped prone into the tall grass and out of sight.  There was no other cover here—nowhere else to go.
Oo-kay, Harriet Ruby, this is no time to lose it your cool.  I dove onto my stomach after him, but not before I took a heavy painful blow to the chest.
“Aii!”  My body slammed into the ground hard enough to knock the wind out of me.  The soft wet earth sent splatters of mud across my goggles.
With all the air whooshed out of my lungs, I couldn’t breathe and lay there gasping for oxygen.  I couldn’t think.   
Three projectiles whizzed past my head in rapid succession.
Ohmigod!  Time to get out of here.  Vision impaired, I scrambled in the direction I thought Will had gone.  My elbows and knees dug into the ground, dragging my body on my stomach through the wet grass, my automatic weapon clutched in both hands in front of me.
This was no fun at all.  Where was he?
My heart pounded against my ribcage.  Sharp pain stabbed through me with each breath.  My aching hands knotted around my rifle.  Black dots cavorted in front of my eyes and everything had fuzzy edges.  I sucked in a big gulp of air―along with it a small bug.
“Aah-ugh!”  I tried to spit it out but already the critter fluttered its wings in my throat.
Coughing, I buried my face against my arm to muffle the sound.  Before I could stop hacking, a hand grasped my ankle and pulled me into a pit behind a bunker. 
“Eek!”  I smashed down on top of a warm body.  A nice hard, well-muscled body.  One I recognized by feel and scent.  “You did that on purpose.”
“Shh.”  Will waited long enough for both of us to relish our position, then rolled me off onto my rear end.
I pulled away and sat up, then collapsed with my back against the dirt wall of the ditch.  He studied me for a long moment―although I couldn’t see his expression through the protective gear―then pulled some sort of spy instrument out of his backpack and fiddled.
Damn these grim-faced, efficient, military types.  At least today he didn’t have a razor-sharp crease in his camos.  Shaking my head, I reached up to wipe the grime off my face with my sleeve.  “Ow!”
Will crouched behind the bunker, peering into the tool, which now looked like a small periscope.  He whipped around.
“You’ve been hit.”  His tight voice conveyed alarm.
Jeez, did he need to lighten up, or what?
I threw down my automatic Spyder MR2 and sent it rattling to the ground.
“Right.  And it hurts like the devil.”  I stared down at the damp red stain on the front of my shirt.



Sandy said...

Anna, what a fantastic excerpt. You drew me right into the scene.

I really liked the history you gave of The Great Wall of China. Especially, as I have an adopted great-niece from China. Her parents make sure she learns about her culture.

Toni Noel said...

Wow, Ann. You did it again. Proved how little I know about history.


Toni Noel said...

Wow, Ann. You did it again. Proved how little I know about history.


Stephanee Ryle said...

Interesting history, Ann. Great cover, too!

Renee Vincent / Gracie Lee Rose said...

Fascinating post! I had no idea the Great Wall of China was surrounded by so many myths.

Your book sounds great and I love that new cover. BEAUTIFUL!

Cara Marsi said...

Ann, fascinating stuff about The Great Wall. Thanks. Your book sounds so good. I love your writing style.

Marianne Stephens said...

And here I thought it was one continuous wall. You have lots of fascinating facts!
The story about Meng Jiangnü...a love story but one with a sad ending. No HEA there!

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