I have noticed a few striking parallels between China's history and George R. R. Martin's epic fantasy, "A Song of Ice and Fire" series:

  1. The Ice Wall resembles the Great Wall of China. Both are meant to keep out the "outsiders"
  2. The Chinese tended to view themselves as the center of the world, and view the others as uncivilized and barbarians. In the same way the people from the Seven Kingdoms in the series view everything outside the Wall as "the Others".
  3. Seven Kingdoms fighting among one another for the Iron Throne, this closely resembles the Seven Kingdom in China during Spring and Autumn period.
  4. Dragonstone. In the series, "We learn that the Targaryens once ruled all of Westeros until a rebellion, punctuated by a few hideous slaughters, chased them to a small, craggy isle off the coast called Dragonstone" This description reminds me of Kuomingtang's retreat to Taiwan in 1949.

My question is, to what extent A Song of Ice and Fire was (and is) inspired by Chinese History?

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    What else is a wall for?
    – Gusdor
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 11:53
  • 3
    @Gusdor- Well, I suppose it could always be to keep the "insiders" in. The Berlin Wall, for example, was more about keeping East Germans from escaping. Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 13:50
  • 1
    I thought the point of the Great Wall was not just to keep outsiders out (a daunting challenge considering the number of people it would take to fully man it), but to simply delay invaders, both in their entry, and in their escaping with living and non-living loot.
    – BMeph
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 16:28
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    A minor point: not all people beyond the Wall are Others. The Others are a race distinct from humans, but there are also humans living beyond the Wall and they are called wildlings, not Others.
    – bdesham
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 21:12
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    @TenthJustice While that is of course the truth, the East German government still insisted that it had been built to keep the Imperialists out!
    – BMWurm
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 11:30

4 Answers 4

  1. The idea of the Wall was inspired Hadrian's Wall, but resembles a lot the Great Wall of China.

  2. I think a lot of ancient civilizations believed that they were the center of the world. For instance, this also happened in ancient Greece. They thought that everyone else was a barbarian. The word 'barbarian' comes from the Greek word 'Βάρβαρος' (pronounced 'varvaros') ; people couldn't understand what others were saying, and every word sounded like 'βαρ βαρ' (pronc: 'var var'), thus βάρβαρος.

  3. George Martin was inspired for his novels by the War of the Roses as well as by the Hundred Years' War, the Crusades and the Albigensian Crusade. ("Interview: George Martin". Deep Magic 41: 19–21. 2005.)

I don't know anything about the 4th point you mention

So, my conclusion would be that no, A song of ice and fire has not been inspired by the Chinese History. Most of Martin's influences are from European history, but I don't believe that that restricted him not to influence from other histories around the globe. So far though, that's all we have been told.

  • 8
    Additionally Essos bears many resemblances to Eurasia. The very eastern point of Essos ends at the Jade sea. This is quite an obvious reference to the Orient (think the Jade Empire). Little is known about this region, which reflects how little of East Asia was known to Medieval Europe.
    – Moogle
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 8:16
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    4. I always assumed that Ageons conquest was inspired by the first Norman King of England, William the Conqueror, I mean they share the same title and everything. Though I find these historical parallels amazing
    – CyanAngel
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 9:22
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    I'm not a fan of the fourth point. Dragonstone was the last stronghold of a weakened dynasty for roughly a year. For the previous 300 or so, it was the proud, historical stronghold of a powerful dynasty, and before that the base of operations for a conqueror. Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 13:57
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    I've never understood how Hadrian's Wall was supposed to keep anyone out. You can vault over it, trivially; certainly a horse would have no trouble. You may struggle a little more with [heavily packed] carts, granted. Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 15:39
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit: A brief skim of wikipedia suggests it was 11-20ft (3.5-6m) high. I certainly can't jump that high. Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 16:27

In regard to your first point, according to this recent interview the Wall was not inspired by the Great Wall of China, although readers can certainly infer their own meanings:

... it seems to me that one reason for the huge success of both the book and TV versions is that people of different races and places detect their own experience in Martin's alternative world. Depending on your perspective, the great dividing barrier in the books could be Hadrian's Wall, the Great Wall of China or the security fence on the West Bank.

GRRM: "Well, I can settle that one easily. It was Hadrian's Wall. I've never been to China."

"But the point I'm making is that readers may see their own meanings?"

GRRM: "Oh, sure. And those meanings may very well be there. An author is not necessarily infallible when discussing his own work because so much takes place in the subconscious."


Shevliaskovic answered all the points well. Unless Martin literally spells it out for us, it's hard to know what inspired him. I got the impression the Valyrian were inspired by the Romans. They ruled their world in every direction, had superior technologies (Valyrian steel / Byzantine Fire) but declined very suddenly.

It's not so much a case of China/England/Rome inspired the "A Song of Ice and Fire world" but more all the countries of this world inspired that world.

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    GRRM has spelled it out. ASOIAF was inspired by The War of the Roses and Hadrian's Wall.
    – TLP
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 13:48
  • Yeah, what I meant was unless he spells out any more inspirations it's just pure guesswork. I think I read somewhere he doesn't like people saying Dothraki = Mongol Horde. Is the Colossus of Bravos inspired by the Colossus of Rhodes, or some statue he came across in his Travels... Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 13:53
  • @MikeyMouse The Bravos=?Rhodes thing sounds a bit like a question waiting to be asked....
    – BMWurm
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 11:34

I know there are already answers including an accepted one. However, I still would like to point out a similarity from JRR's The Silmarillion.

There is clear writing about the wall and the watch too. This is around 27% in the book.

...and they raised up the mountain-walls of the Pelóri to sheer and dreadful heights, east, north, and south. Their outer sides were dark and smooth, without foothold or ledge, and they fell in great precipices with faces hard as glass, and rose up to towers with crowns of white ice. A sleepless watch was set upon them, and no pass led through them, save only at the Calacirya...

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