Built of mud, basalt and wood from the desert saxaul bush, deep in the arid hinterland of the Gobi, the ‘Wall of Genghis Khan’ is both a misnomer (it was probably built by the Xia Dynasty) and a desolate monument to futility: constructed in around 1100, there is no evidence it was ever manned. The Jin Dynasty’s attempts at fortification were much more substantial, but equally ineffective. Like the later Qing, the Jin emerged from the Jurchen tribes of Manchuria, seizing northern Chian in 1115. Their wall-building lasted from 1125–98, and exhibited then innovative features: beacon towers, parapets, observation platforms and inner moats. This might have deterred standard issue nomadic marauders, but not an uber-conqueror like Genghis Khan. His horde simply rode round the wall and captured Beijing (1215). Unwisely, the Jin then decided to attack their southern neighbours, the Song. Now surrounded by enemies, their last stronghold, Caizhou, fell in 1234.
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