Chu was originally one of dozens of states in the Western Zhou Dynasty (1045-771 BC). It ruled the area called Jingshan (territory belonging to today's Hubei Province) in Central China, with Danyang (on the Yangtze in the southeast of Zigui, Yichang Prefecture in Hubei Province) as its capital. The Chu State later moved its capital down the Yangtze to Ying (today's Jingzhou in Hubei province).
To expand its territory during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), Chu rulers often launched wars against the other states and conquered several smaller states. As Chu's territory reached its maximum, it covered the modern day provinces of Hunan, Hubei, Chongqing, Henan, Anhui and parts of Jiangsu and Jiangxi. Its vast area was almost equal to all the other northern states put together at the beginning of the Warring States Period. See map below. Click on the state names to read their history.
To consolidate its reign and protect the frontiers, Chu began to build a series of fortresses along the borders. The fortresses were built to conform to the natural terrain and were the oldest elements of the China's Great Wall-like constructions. Historical documents proved that Chu later linked those fortresses with a series of walls, starting from Luyang Pass, southwest of Lushan Mountain in Central China's Henan Province.
The Chu "Great Wall", similar in construction to what is now known as the Great Wall in the north was historically called Wancheng or Rectangular Wall.
Chu walls were expanded and strengthened during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) to defend against attacks from the State of Qin. Chu walls measured around 500 kilometers (300 miles) in this period.
Despite its superior size and numbers Chu forces succumbed to superior Qin military leadership, as eventually did all of the warring states. The Chu walls then became redundant in the united ancient China of the Qin Dynasty (220-206 BC). Few traces of those oldest walls exist today.