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Willow Palisade

Willow Palisade The entire boundary of southern Manchuria was for several centuries marked by the Willow Palisade, a system of ditches and embankments planted with willows, but that has totally disappeared except for occasional widely separated ruins. The Palisade consisted of a 3.5 meter wide trench, with levees on either side, each 1 meter [3 chi] high and 1 meter wide , built up from the soil excavated from the trench. The levees were topped by hedges of Chinese [yellow] willows (either Salix matsudana or Salix babylonica), large bushes about 2-3 meters high.

Over a period of several years ending in 1681 [built c. 165072 by another account], Beijing erected the Willow Palisade [liutiaobian], a barrier beyond which the Chinese were prohibited from encroaching on Manchu and Mongol lands. Manchu landlords wanted to live off rents from Chinese tenant smallholders. The regime permitted Chinese to cross the Willow Palisade or Great Wall as seasonal laborers. Some returned; many stayed on as tenants of Manchu landlords

The Qing rulers were determined to maintain this third region of Manchuria, in Robert Lee's words, as a fountainhead of ancestral virtues and a reservoir of military power, by prohibiting Han immigration beyond the Willow Palisade. Robert Lee argues that the Willow Palisade was erected not just for preventing Chinese immigration into the naturally better endowed Manchuria and for preserving the Manchu culture and identity. It was primarily erected to prevent an alliance between the Mongols and the Chinese.

Much is heard of the Great Wall, certainly the world's most memorable sight, but that other peculiar defensive work of the Manchus, the Willow Palisade, now in poor repair, attracted less research than its uniqueness merited. The Willow Palisade began where the Great Wall ends at Shan Hai Quan [Shanhaikuan] at the sea, and swept around the sacred tombs of Mukden, then south to where the Yalu river meets the sea. It is often conveniently divided into three connected sections: the western and eastern sections, forming the 'Inner Willow Palisade' around Liaodong Peninsula, and the northern section, also known as the 'Outer Willow Palisade'.

The country which extends beyond the eastern extremity of the Great Wall on either side of the south-western frontier of Manchuria had for many years past been subject to periodical outhreaks of brigandage. The sea on the east, the Great Wall on the south, the towns of Jehol on the west, and of Chien Ch'ang Hsien, Ch'ao Yang Hsien, and Chin Chou Fu on the north, may be said to form the approximate limits of this district. It is a kind of "no-man's land," and the conflict of jurisdictions between Mukden and Jehol affords opportunities for lawlessness similar to that formerly prevailing in the border counties of England and Scotland. The south-west boundary of Feng-t'ien, the southernmost province of Manchuria, nominally followed the willow palisade which, formerly a continuation of the Great Wall, had long ceased to exist as a practical frontier.

Traders from the Pien Wai that is, from beyond the old Willow Palisade travelled from the confines of Chihli province right down to the Yalu. Vastly depopulated by the move of the banners into China proper during the conquest era, migration of Han Chinese northeast of the Willow Palisade was made illegal after the 1660s. Some migration occurred despite the ban, however.

The weeping willow (Salix babylonica) is a native of the East, as its appearance in the famous Chinese willow-ware indicates. It is said to have been introduced into Europe from Smyrna by the poet Pope. A variety of this species known as the yellow willow, because of the bright yellow color of its twigs in the spring time, is very common It grows to as large size as the black willow and is far superior in rate of growth and in appearance. The willows are comparatively short-lived, but possess surprising ability to repair broken tops or other injuries they may sustain. White and yellow willow are among the hardiest trees for prairie planting and the best for general planting; they are used for wind-breaks, hedges and screens.

The "yellow willow tree," later so common throughout the country, was first introduced into America by Benjamin Franklin. A wicker basket, made of willow, in which some foreign article had been imported, he saw sprouting in a ditch, and directed some of the twigs to be planted. They took root, and from these shoots are supposed to have sprung all the yellow willows, which have grown on this side of the Atlantic.

In 19th Century Virginia live fences were made out of yellow willow. In the counties of Frederick, Clark, Warren, Page and Shenandoah, there were many miles of live fence, especially on the banks of the North and South branches of the Potomac river, made of the branches of the yellow willow. In the month of March they were cut down and trimmed with an axe, say eight or nine feet long, so that cattle cannot well reach the tops and trim them, in which case they do not live well : however they were planted at most all seasons of the year, though the spring was preferable ; all sizes were planted, as near the edge of the water as possible. They were generally planted three or four feet apart, the large end of the limb, branch or plant being out sharp, ready to force in the ground. The plants were pushed down in the hole firm - two or three hands will make a long string of fence in a day by having two good mauls: the hole was made in less than a minute. A live fence in this way was ready for use as soon as it is platted.

The length of time, and attention to make hedges, or live fence, is a discouraging circumstance. The expense of trimming and keeping a live fence in order, is thought by some who have used them, to exceed that of keeping an ordinary rail or board fence in repair. Should a very unruly animal break through a good live fence, or an evil disposed person cut their way through, a gap is left, which must be filled by a dead fence of some sort, until a new growth. Notwithstanding the good properties of this kind of fence, it is not to bs supposed that someone who had a plenty of thrifty growing timber, or a suitable quantity of loose stones within a reasonable distance, would undertake the cultivation of live fences. But there are extensive tracts of land in which there are no stones suitable for walling: and where fencing timber too has become scarce. In such places live fences and ditches are the last and only resort.

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Page last modified: 13-11-2013 19:27:20 ZULU