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Tunnel Visions


  Text by Zi Mo

  Many viewers of the film Tunnel War were captivated by scenes depicting Chinese soldiers defending a village from invading Japanese troops through skillful use of a network of tunnels.In fact, the use of tunnels during war can be traced back centuries in China. The earliest recorded instance was pulled off in a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) cave in Shuidong Valley in Lingwu City, northwestern China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region,which is also considered the best-preserved and most complete ancient military defense network along the Great Wall.

  The artificial cave was chiseled in the cliffs along a 3-kilometer valley, with one end in Hongshan Fort, which was built in 1503. The fort, with a circumference of 1,200 meters, has partially collapsed,but the surviving city walls and towers testify to its past magnificence. According to Wang Huimin, a researcher with the Ningxia Archeology Institute, cavalries from nomadic tribes such as the Tartars and Oirats often rode across the Ming Dynasty’s northwestern border to plunder local residents. The cave emerged as part of a scientific, comprehensive defense network,along with the Great Wall and its accompanying fortresses, that effectively thwarted invasions by nomadic tribes through utilizing local landforms such as valleys and earthen mounds.

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