Meng Jiangnu

Meng JiangnuMeng Jiangnu’s husband Fan Qiliang was among those conscripted to build the Great Wall. One day while she was in the garden, a man trying to escape from the pressgang labour jumped over the wall and landed at her feet. Her family protected him, and they fell in love and got married.

On the night of their wedding, her husband Fan was seized by the court officials. Before they parted, Meng took a hairpin of white jade from her head, broke it into two halves and gave one half of it to her husband with the words: “My heart is as white and pure as this jade. Keep this half and you will feel that I am with you.”

Fan was forced to work on the Wall. During the construction, thousands upon thousands of labourers died of overwork and maltreatment.

Nothing was known about her husband. When autumn came, the birds began to migrate. She recalled that her husband was wearing only thin clothes. She made some padded clothes and left home to look for her husband.

At last Meng Jiangnu got to the Wall. When she found her husband had died, she was so sad that she cried and cried. Finally, the Wall split open, trapping the cruel officials arid soldiers under it and the bodies of million of conscripted labourers were exposed.

Emperor Qin Shihuang got infuriated by what Meng did, but when he saw her beauty, he wanted to make her his concubine. She accepted on the following conditions: a proper burial for her husband, a tomb built for him, and a monument set up for all the labourers who died of hard work on the Wall. The Emperor himself was to wear mourning as a token of regret for what had been done to the labourers. The Emperor accepted all these. Having avenged herself and putting the Emperor to shame, Meng flung herself into the sea. To commemorate her death, a temple was built at Shanhaiguan Pass near the sea.

In the following verse the unknown folk poet describes how Meng Jiangnu set out;

At the people’s festival of the new year
All hang at their doors great lanterns of red;
Faces shining with brightness, husbands look happily
Upon their famities; only for me there is bitterness,
For my husband has been taken to build the Great Wall,
Comes early summer and we are all busy
Feeding the sitkworms; going arm in arm
Together to pick from mulberry branches;
As we pick we hang the baskets on the trees below us
Falls a tear.
Then autumn through the open-door wafts
Scent from the flowering shrub that stands there;
Alone, wild goose flying southward drops from its leg
A letter from my beloved, carrying these words;
Let the loafer spread what rumours they like
About you, my dear, I am sure that you still love me enough
To send me clothes to keep me alive in this cold.
Winter and from the north drive down flying snowflakes,
Yet the girl Meng Jiangnu sets off to carry clothes
To her lover; and in compassion the very ravens
Come down to lead her; weeping with cold and misery
To the Great Walt.

The Great Wall has been called “the longest cemetery in the world” because of the countless workers who died in the building of it.

Along the Wall there are from eight to twelve towers per mile so that the distance between them to be covered was between one hundred fifty and two hundred yards.

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