Think of China and I’m willing to bet that you’ll immediately think first of the Great Wall, the lengthy stretch of fortifications built and manned during the Imperial times against outside forces that would pose a danger to the people of the Middle Kingdom. It’s no match maybe for the icy Wall of George RR Martin’s books, even if it does appear more impressive than the fictional wall’s real-world parallel, Hadrian’s Wall. But it’s such an iconic image representative of one of the world’s great civilizations, and is thus accorded protection and preservation both by the Chinese government and United Nations agencies. But that hasn’t changed the reality of a dire threat to this long-winding edifice: it is literally disappearing, being reduced brick by antique brick.
CNN reports that Chinese authorities are putting into gear a new strategy to keep safe and preserve the remnants of the Great Wall from enterprising thieves picking off the old and sturdy bricks to use as construction material or to hawk as souvenirs to foreign tourists – after they’ve been cut down to size of course, to maximize profits. Meanwhile the stripped portions of the Wall are now left at the mercy of howling winds, heavy rainfall, and grinding sandstorms eroding the structures to powder or mush.
That’s a very dangerous and grave proposition, for as official studies have found out, the sections of the Great Wall built during the Ming Dynasty has already been reduced by 30%, completely vanished. In fact, taking into account the entire length of the Great Wall from the latest Ming back to the earliest Third-Century BC structures, only less than 10% of the whole can be considered in the best condition.
As for the brick thieves, they have exploited the fact that tourists and indeed most Chinese practically on see the Great Wall as being the constantly photogenic Ming-era Badaling section near Beijing. Thus they have had their way on the less visited and more crumbly portions that are often now considered treacherous to explore like parts of the Jiankou section.
The new regulations regarding the wall were put together by the Chinese State Administration of Cultural Heritage earlier this year. The rules rose into prominence last week after a video surfaced online showing a man vandalizing and collapsing portions of the Wall. The viral attention convinced SACH to implement the new plan as soon as possible.
As part of their campaign, government agencies will begin regular spots checks and inspections of the Wall to check from previous photo documentation if a brick from the walls or paving stones has been removed. In addition, they are calling upon the local residents to join their vigilance to official efforts, even opening a public hotline that people can call to alert authorities of any new damage.
Photo Credit to i1os.com