An exploration of the military defense system of the Ming Great Wall in Qinghai Province from the perspective of castle-based military settlements


The Ming Great Wall distributed in Qinghai Province is a significant part of the Great Wall, which is the most world-renowned heritage site in China. However, compared to the Great Wall sections in other provinces, this section has not been systematically researched due to the later complete investigation and not enough attention paid from the public. It is of importance to study the Ming Great Wall Military Defense System (M-GWMDS), as it is the premise and foundation for further systematic researches about the Ming Great Wall. To supplement and improve the whole M-GWMDS in China, the authors researched the M-GWMDS in Qinghai Province from a new perspective, namely the castle-based military settlement. By consulting and summarizing related literature, the architectural features and military functions of castles have been clarified. After that, the castle-based military settlement in Qinghai Province was further analyzed, including its spatial distribution, troops deployment, three defense districts, and the reachable domain of troops. Finally, the authors explored to comprehensively research the military defense system, which contains four elements, i.e., the Great Wall mainline, military settlements, beacon tower system, and the relay system. Such components have made up a close network to defense, attack, and transfer vital information/staff with practical cooperation, which revealed the scientificity and practicability of Chinese ancient military thoughts. This study is helpful to enrich the systematic research on the Ming Great Wall and meaningful to expand the analysis of local history and ethnology of Qinghai Province.

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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41562015 and No. 51208245) and the funding from the cultural relics protection technology project of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage of the People’s Republic of China (Grant No. 2013-YB-SQ-120).

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Correspondence to Wenwu Chen.

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Du, Y., Chen, W., Cui, K. et al. An exploration of the military defense system of the Ming Great Wall in Qinghai Province from the perspective of castle-based military settlements. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 13, 46 (2021).

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  • Ming Great Wall
  • Military defense system
  • Castles
  • Architectural features
  • Military settlements