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The delicious 'sticky' rice' that is a modern mainstay in Asian dishes was the secret behind an ancient Chinese super-strong mortar.
Researchers also concluded that the mortar - a paste used to bind and fill gaps between bricks, stone blocks and other construction materials - remains the best available material for restoring ancient buildings.
Doctor Bingjian Zhang and colleagues found that construction workers in ancient China developed sticky rice mortar about 1,500 years ago by mixing sticky rice soup with the standard mortar ingredient.
That ingredient is slaked lime, limestone that has been calcined, or heated to a high temperature, and then exposed to water.
Sticky rice mortar probably was the world's first composite mortar, made with both organic and inorganic materials. The mortar was stronger and more resistant to water than pure lime mortar, and what Dr Zhang termed one of the greatest technological innovations of the time.
Builders used the material to construct important buildings like tombs, pagodas, and city walls, some of which still exist today. Some of the structures were even strong enough to shrug off the effects of modern bulldozers and powerful earthquakes.
Origin of the Great Wall
From 770 B.C. through 476 B.C. was the Spring and Autumn Period of China. During the Period, princes that held land from the Zhou Kingdom made themselves states. Among all the 149 states, the most powerful were the Qi, Jin, Chu, Qin, Lu and Zheng States.
For the wide use of iron tools and farm cattle, the social production of this period progressed greatly. The higher-rank people started to gain private croplands. The land was privatized, and the basic social system of the day, i.e. the Well Field System, began to collapse, which cracked Zhou Kingdom's leadership over its princes and caused among them wars for domination.
To conquer other states, stronger ones made frequent wars upon others. Only a few out of the more than a hundred had finally survived, and were anxious for a new round of war. These states included Qin, Wei, Yan, Zhao, Han, Qi, Chu, also referred to as "the Seven Powers", and others less strong. And the history came to the Warring States Period (B.C. 475 ~ 221).
The social production of this Period continued to grow. The advancing in agriculture and handicraft gave rise to thriving cities acting as marketplaces. The architecture of this time also improved remarkably and made it possible to build solider constructions of better structures in more flexible steps. On the other hand, wars went on unabatedly between the states, some of which at the same time were harassed by minority nationalities from the north. Hence the states built walls around important cities, especially their capitals.
A latest excavation has revealed that the wall-surrounded capital Linzi of the Qi State in the Warring States Period was four kilometers from east to west, and five kilometers from north to south. Palaces to rulers lay inside. Distributed in the city were workshops selling instruments made by way of smelting iron ores, casting bronze, abrading and carving bones and the like. It is recorded in Shi Ji, a great historical literature, that Linzi had over 700,000 families (the unit ancient Chinese used to count population) and was "so crowed with people and vehicles that they could hardly go without brushing each other".
The city Xiadu of the Yan State was eight kilometers from east to west, and four kilometers from north to south. The capital Handan of Zhao was three and four kilometers from east to west and from north to south.
Because walls around cities proved excellent defense, the states wanted to utilize this advantage widely. Hence they built walls on the borders and joined them up with natural barriers like large embankments and steep mountain ridges.
The building of walls expensed countless labors. But they were undoubtedly grand constructions even seen today.
The Great Wall of China as it exists today was built mainly in the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). It was an ambitious project and took over 100 years to complete. The walls of this period were well designed and known for their unique configuration and effective defense system. Extending from the Yalu River in Liaoning Province to the eastern bank of the Taolai River in Gansu Province, Ming's Great Wall winds its way from east to west through present Liaoning, Hebei, Tianjin, Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Ningxia and Gansu Provinces or areas.
Research has shown that Ming's emperors were busy with the construction of this Great Wall throughout their reign. After seizing political power from rulers of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368), the emperors had to battle desperate Yuan forces in the north and stop the threat of invasion from other northern ethnic tribes such as Nuzhen, Dada and Wala. To resist these outside forces and protect their citizens, every emperor of the Ming Dynasty spared no effort in building, fortifying, extending and eventually completing the Great Wall.
The design of the Ming Wall was well thought out. For example, Xuanfuzhen Great Wall in Beijing, due to its strategic position, was built in the unique style of double lines, inner and outer, to strengthen its defensive ability. A total of six passes were built. The inner passes were Juyongguan Pass, Zijingguan Pass and Daomaguan Pass, and the outer passes were Pianguan Pass, Ningwuguan Pass and Yanmenguan Pass. These passes controlled entries and exits into the areas and are secured by gates. Watch towers, signal towers, fortresses, and observation posts serve as additional reinforcements. The Ming Great Wall was further divided into nine zones, each controlled by a garrison, called 'zhen' in Chinese. Two more garrisons were added later, making a total of eleven garrisons of Great Wall. This ensured the security of the capital.
Following the topographies of the land through which it travels, this ancient Great Wall looks like a long winding dragon. To get a rough idea of the size: if all its stones, bricks, and earth are used to build a city wall of 1.1 yards high and 5.5 yards wide, the total length of this Great Wall will circle the earth more than once. Today, remnants of this huge wall stand as a witness to the sacrifices of the ancient builders and the wisdom of its designers. It is perhaps one of the greatest architectural achievements of men.
The porcelains of the Ming dynasty have attained such recognition in the West that "Ming" has become almost generic for anything ceramic fabricated in China before the twentieth century. While, unhappily, many of the pieces called Ming have no possible claim to that attribution, the porcelains that were produced during the period are among the most beautiful and exciting to emerge from China's kilns. Because the kilns at Jingdezhen and the surrounding area of Jiangxi Province became paramount during the Ming era, overshadowing all other manufacturing centers, our attention focuses primarily on wares from these kilns from this time onward.