This is the first full scholarly study of the Great Wall of China to appear in any language, and it challenges many deeply held ideas about Chinese history. Drawing both on primary sources and on the latest archaeology, the book first demonstrates that the standard account of the Great Wall is untrue and misleading and then presents a convincing new account. It begins by tracing the various walls and systems of frontier defences that existed in early Chinese history, and shows how the greatest of these achieved a mythical symbolic stature which long survived the Wall itself. A striking concluding chapter traces how the true history of the Wall was lost in the early twentieth century as it was gradually transformed into a Chinese national symbol explained through historical myth. The book is an important contribution to the history of China's defensive policy, and her ideological attitudes, and will be of interest both to students of Chinese history and of international relations in the pre-modern world.