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Beacon Fire Site of different dynasties

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Beacon Fire Site of different dynasties

Simatai Great WallOn account of the importance of military intelligence beacon fire sites were strictly managed during each dynasty. Soldiers of the beacon fire sites were not allowed to leave the site without permission for fear of failing to send military intelligence.

  • Beacon Fire Site of Tang Dynasty
    As a result of political and military development, the Tang Dynasty did not adopt defensive measures and did not build the Great Wall to any great extent. Yet it did built many military townships. It summarized the beacon fire system of the Spring and Autumn Period, Warring States Period, the Qin and Han dynasties.

    Tang Dynasty introduced a complete beacon fire system, incorporating previous alarm signal systems. The Tang Dynasty system, including method of installation, architectural form, organization of beacon fire, kind of fire, regulations and methods of making smoke and fire, regulation of alarm raising and changing of guards, transmitting alarm signals, secret code -- all these were inherited and used by later generations.

    According to Tang Dynasty provisions there must be a beacon fire site every 30 li to be erected on mountains. In case too many mountains block the view, the distance can be altered. The beacon fire site should be located in a spot where three such sites come into view of each other. In border areas beacon fire site should be surrounded by protective walls. A key person is to be in charge, aided by a deputy. Nine persons are to work in the site. They should be chosen from among those who have families. The deputy supervises overt he nine, who keep watch on enemy movement by turn day and night. One of them is in charge of the tally (used as proof for transmitting intelligence), who is relieved every two years. Smoke is made during day while fire is made at night. A lockout should be maintained to watch the tube to make sure that there is a signal coming out from the beacon fire site.

  • Beacon Fire Site of Ming dynasty
    Construction project of the Great Wall under the Ming Dynasty saw great improvement. The system of beacon fire site, the making of smoke and fire, etc. were also improved. Cannons were fired as an additional signal. Sulphur and saltpetre had been added to make it more effective.

    According to regulations laid down in 1466 or the second year of Cheng Hua, Ming Dynasty: cannon shot was fired once and one beacon fire made when 100-200 enemy troops advanced on the border region. Two shots were fired and two fires lighted when 500 enemy troops invaded the territory. Three shots and three fires were discharged and made in case of attack by 1,000 enemy troops. Four shots and four fires were discharged and made when5,000 enemy force approached. Should over 10,000 enemy troops encroach upon the territory, five shots were to be fired and five beacon fires made. Sulphur and saltpetre having been added, the signals and military intelligence were sent more accurately and quickly.

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