Secret to Building the Forbidden City? Sleds
Workers used them to push massive rocks over ice long distances
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Nov 5, 2013 2:14 PM CST
Thousands of people perform exercises in the Forbidden City to kick off an official campaign to urge workers to take daily workouts in Beijing in 2010.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – How on earth did 15th-century laborers transport hundred-ton rocks from a quarry more than 40 miles away to the building site of China's Forbidden City? Wisely, it turns out, reports Nature. A newly translated ancient document reveals the trick: They put the slabs on wooden sleds and pushed them over the icy, winding roads. What's more, it seems they dug wells every 1,600 feet to draw up water to keep the ice slippery, explains LiveScience.

"If you didn’t lubricate it with additional water then ... the object would have just frozen to the ground," a Princeton researcher tells NBC News. He also crunches numbers to prove the value of the method: If laborers tried to use brute strength to haul the stones, it would have required 1,500 of them. With the ice method, 50 could manage it. So why not use a wheeled vehicle? China had them at that point, but they maxed out at 86-ton loads. Enter the ice.

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Showing 3 of 7 comments
Ezekiel 25:17
Nov 16, 2013 9:05 PM CST
Thousands died building the Great Wall. How many died on this project? Of course the Great Wall never really worked anyway. Khan just paid starving and destitute gatekeepers at the gate cities. He then marched right in like he owned the place. He brought the best Mongolian BBQ to the masses and it reached my town. Well, that's what it says on the menu anyway.
Nov 11, 2013 5:38 AM CST
Going downhill must have been really cool.
Nov 11, 2013 2:47 AM CST
Ice, plus bamboo shoots up their finger nails if they tried to take a rest break.