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Wednesday, January 10, 2018


Posted by R. Ann Siracusa

Since the Great Wall of China plays both physical and metaphorical roles in my soon-to-be-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 site.

In my novel, the heroine, Harriet Ruby, is the catalyst that helps destroy the metaphorical "great wall" blocking the hero's emotions and part of his memory from his consciousness. She also does some physical damage to the physical wall with an assault rifle. But it wasn't her fault. Really!


1) A myth is a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involves one or more supernatural being or events; or

2) A widely held but false traditional story, belief, or idea.

Myth 1: The Great Wall is 13,000 Miles Long

The Great Wall of China does stretch a long distance across northern China, but the idea that it is one unbroken wall is incorrect. Segments of walls were built by different rulers at different periods of time in Chinese history. Under different dynasties, some of the pre-existing walls were connected.
The first part of the wall was built in the 7th century BC by King Xuan of the Western Zhou dynasty, the second part from  475 to 221 BC. Those two segments were connected by the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, to protect the territory from invasion by nomads from the north.

The wall that we see today dates from the Ming Dynasty (1600s), because they rebuilt much of the wall in stone and brick rather than rammed earth. The fortification currently extends 5,500 miles, although still in segments.

Myth 2: The Great Wall Can Be Seen From The Moon

The best know myth is that the great wall can be seen with the naked eye from the moon. Could that be true? 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 are varying stories 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.

China's first astronaut Yang Liwei, said he didn't see the wall during an orbit of less than 24 hours in October, 2003 but there are many structures which can also be seen, such as the Pyramids in Egypt if the atmospheric conditions in outer space [defined as about 350 kilometers in altitude] and perfect and the observer is in exactly the right spot at the right time.

The first photographic evidence of sections of the wall from outer space were taken by Chinese American astronaut Leroy Chiao from the International Space Station [at 360 kilometers] in 2005. Photo above by Leroy Chial, NASA.


1) A legend is a nonhistorical or unverifiable story handed down by tradition from earlier times and popularly accepted as historical; or
2) The body of stories of this kind, especially as they relate to a particular people, group, or clan.

Legend 1: The Legend Of Meng Jiangn├╝

This legend of love and devotion 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 took refuge in a private garden. There he met the property owner's daughter, Meng Jiangn├╝. They fell in love and married, apparently never leaving Meng's house. Eventually, the Emperor's guard found Liang 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.

Image posted on pintrest – artist unknown                                                             

Image from 
Another version tells that the angry Emperor of Qin Dynasty (221 B.C. - 206 B.C.) came to survey the damage done to his project. But when he saw Meng Jiang, the cause of the damage, he was enchanted by her beauty and wanted to marry her.
Meng Jiang said she would only marry him on three conditions - first, her former husband was to be given a grand burial; second, the emperor and his court must go into mourning for Xiliang; and third, she wanted to visit the ocean. Much as the emperor hated the idea of officially mourning a commoner, he agreed so he could gain this rare beauty.
After Meng Jiang got her third wish, she scolded the Emperor bitterly and cast herself into the ocean. The Emperor sent his men to dredge the ocean but the waves chased them away.

It so happened that the Dragon King of the Sea and his daughter the Dragon Princess felt sympathy for Meng Jiang and spirited her away to their underwater Dragon Palace. Then they commanded their army of shrimps and crabs to raise a storm, repelling the Emperor's men.

Neither version is a Cinderella story. Operas and play are based on this legend, and throughout China, many temples have been built in her memory, including one at Shanhai Pass.    Below Shanhai Pass Temple, Photo by Bryan, Great Wall

Legend 2: "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 by the name of 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.
Personally, Metal soup loses something in the translation. I couldn't find anything that explained the Chinese term.

Legend 3: 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. In order to remember the loving father and son, the name of the fortress where they met was named Xifeng Kou. They represented the heart of thousands of soldiers and their family. The pass where they were buried was later named Xifeng Kou Pass.

Xifengkou Pass where wall is under water
From Article by Barry Kramer


Book 3 of the Tour Director Extraordinaire romantic suspense series
By R. Ann Siracusa


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 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!


      During the hours we made love in the lifeboat, I was completely incoherent and oblivious to my surroundings, except for brief intermissions when I either dozed or let my mind drift. In one of those quiet moments, half-asleep, I pondered the circumstances that had brought Will and me to that location and point in time.
It occurred to me that the only way Will managed to do the job he had to do was to keep a tight rein on his emotions. He accomplished that by separating his emotions from his reality. He simply stuffed his feelings behind an impenetrable internal wall of ice and pretended they didn't exist, creating huge amounts of stress.
     Sex eased the tension enough to keep him going, but he seemed insatiable. That resulted in an active sex life and ... well, his intensity and potential for violence could be scary.
     Without the potential for violence in him, he couldn't have done his job.
     I don't know how long we were in the boat -- I didn't have a watch nor did I care what time it was -- but it seemed like several hours. Long enough to turn my muscles to jelly and put a smile on my face. I couldn't keep my eyes open.
     We lay loosely entwined and dozing in the afterglow when suddenly, my eyes popped open to darkness. Shifting my body, slick with perspiration, against his, I shook my head to get rid of the cobwebs and tried to orient myself. Where was I? What woke me up?
     Scratchy noises on the side of the lifeboat sent shivers darting along my nerves at the same time a sliver of light seeped into the life craft. Abruptly the canvas jerked up.
     "Oh!" I cried in alarm.
     "Hallo? Who inside, please?" a singsong voice asked. "You come out, please."
     Gasping for breath, I made out the silhouette of a head above me, then a strong light flashed into my eyes and onto a lot of bare skin and tangled limbs.
     Throwing my arms across my bare chest, I clamped my lids shut and screamed for real. Before the last tones of the screech burst from my mouth, Will had sprung into a crouch and grabbed the intruder by the neck.
     "Aaii!" Frightened and taken by surprise, the man dropped the flashlight.
     Will had moved so fast it seemed as though he'd been on the alert all night waiting for this moment, instead of sound asleep and snoring. He leaped out of the boat and twisted the man's arm behind him with one hand pressing his fingers into his prisoner's neck to keep him from calling out.
     Someone above us shouted a question in Chinese. Without letting go, Will shot quick questions in Mandarin at his captive crewmember who returned the answers in whimpers.
     With the canvas thrown back, the lights from the Bridge and the crescent moon provided enough illumination for me to see. The fallen flashlight sent a strong beam shimmering across the teakwood deck and off into oblivion. I found my robe in the bottom of the boat and shrugged it over my shoulders like a cape.
     Without warning, the damp air filled with shouts in Chinese. One of the ship's bright floodlights, used for night maneuvers, flashed on, making everything as bright as theaters in New York.
     Unfortunately, we were center stage. "Shit!" Uh-oh. Did I say that out loud?
     Already faces pressed against cabin windows. Laughs and comments in various languages floated down from the upper decks as crew members and passengers, bored with nothing much to see at night, drifted to the rails to find out what was going on.
     "What happened?" I heard someone ask.
     "Who are they?"
     "Oh, my God. Are they naked?"
     "Naw, just the filly. The guy's wearing pants." A voice with a strong Texas accent.
     "Get out," Will ordered, his voice a low hiss.
     Without debate -- another aw-jeez moment in which I chose not to assert my independence -- I scrambled onto my knees on the bench seat around the periphery of the craft.
     "Don't--" Will started.
     Before he could articulate the words, I stood up. Off balance, the craft swayed, creaked, and tipped.
     "Aii!" My hands flapped but there was nothing to catch. Teetering, I struggled to regain my footing and caught a toe on the seat. "Ouch!"
     The boat somersaulted. I sailed out in a swan drive and splattered spread eagle and face down on the deck. My robe settled in a pool at Will's feet.





1 comment:

jean hart stewart said...

Loved both the history lsson and your excerpt,,,,, very nice indeed..

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