Lady Meng Jiang

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Meng Jiangnü Temple, Édouard Chavannes, 1907.

Lady Meng Jiang (Chinese: 孟姜女; pinyin: Mèng Jiāng Nǚ) is a Chinese folk tale about the Great Wall of China. The theme of the story is about the separation of a loving couple and their tragic ending as a result of building the Wall.

The story is set during the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC). It tells of how Meng Jiangnü's bitter weeping made a section of the Great Wall collapse. Meng Jiangnü's husband Fan Qiliang (Chinese: 范杞良; pinyin: Fàn Qǐliáng) was caught by imperial officials and sent as Corvee labor to build the Great Wall. Meng Jiangnü heard nothing from him after his departure, so she set out to look for him. Unfortunately, by the time she reached the Great Wall, she discovered that her husband had already died. Hearing the bad news, she cried her heart out. Her howling caused the collapse of a part of the Great Wall. This story indicates that the Great Wall was the result of the hard labour of tens of thousands of Chinese commoners.

Qin Shi Huang came to survey the damage done to the wall. But when he saw Meng Jiang, he was enchanted by her beauty and wanted to marry her. Meng Jiang said she would only marry him on three conditions - first, her former husband was to be given a grand burial; second, the emperor and his court must go into mourning for Qiliang; and third, she wanted to visit the ocean. Although the emperor hated the idea of officially mourning a commoner, he agreed so he could gain her hand in marriage. After Meng Jiang got her third wish, she scolded the Emperor bitterly and committed suicide by casting herself into the ocean. The Emperor sent his men to dredge the ocean but the waves chased them away.

The image of Meng represents the kindness of ancient women and the torture brought on the people by war. It has been passed down from generation to generation in Bo Shan.

The section of the Great Wall that was toppled by Meng and the sea where she committed suicide are in today's Zibo City, Shandong Province. The Temple of Lady Meng-Jiang, first established in the Song Dynasty about 1,000 years ago, has been maintained and worshipped at the eastern beginning of the Great Wall till this day in Qinhuangdao of Hebei Province today.