How to save the disappearing Great Wall of China?

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Though the Chinese government promulgated the “Great Wall of Protection Ordinance” in 2006, the world famous ancient stone fortification is still disappearing at a tremendous speed, especially the parts in forsaken mountain areas.

How to save the disappearing Great Wall of China?
Sections of China’s Great Wall are disappearing at a tremendous rate  
[Credit: Xinhua]

According to research by the China Great Wall Society, it is not optimistic about the protection of the Great Wall. For example, only 8.2 percent of the Great Wall built in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) is in good condition presently.

Moreover, in the report released by the Chinese State Administration of Cultural Heritage in 2012, less than 10 percent of the Ming Great Wall is preserved adequately, 20 percent is moderately preserved, and almost 30 percent has disappeared.

The World Monument Fund based in New York announced in 2003 that the Great Wall was among the 100 most endangered historic sites.

Bad weather is one of the main causes of damage to the Great Wall. Dong Yaohui, the deputy of the China Great Wall Society, said that most parts of the masonry structure of the Great Wall are in Beijing and Hebei province. Though they are more stable than the sun-dried mud brick Great Wall, in the rainy seasons during July and August, they can be easily broken by storms.

Local data shows that in the summer of 2012, 36 meters of the Dajing Gate part of the Great Wall in Zhangjiakou, a city in northwestern Hebei province, was damaged by storms; the Shanhai Pass part in Qinhuangdao, a city in northeast part of Hebei province, leaked badly; while some fighting towers of the Wulonggou portionin Laiyuan, a city in western Hebei province, totally collapsed.

How to save the disappearing Great Wall of China?
A tourist hikes on the wild Great Wall in Hebei province 
[Credit: Xinhua]

Even in the dry seasons, because of lack of protection, the Great Wall in the mountain areas in Hebei province was eroded by mountain springs or even plants. In Funing County, a county in Qinhuangdao, if you slightly touch the wall of the watchtowers, you will find soil peeling off. There are also trees growing in the cracks of the Great Wall.

People living around or travelling to the Great Wall which has not been developed into tourist attractions are also damaging the wall. According to Zhang Heshan, a Great Wall protector in Funing County, more travelers have been exploring the wild Great Wall in recent years. The frequent trampling has led to damage, causing the bricks to loosen, and even walls to collapse. However, there were not enough protectors to patrol around these areas, and not enough money to restore the damage.

Journalists from the Beijing Times also found that people in some villages of Lulong County, in the west part of Qinhuangdao, lived in the houses built with ancient blue and grey bricks. They told the journalists that these bricks were removed from the Great Wall nearby.

Some villagers even sold the Great Wall bricks with carved characters. An unnamed villager in Dongfeng Village told the Beijing Times journalist that the market price of these bricks is 40 to 50 yuan ($6.4 to $8.05) a piece, or even as low as 30 yuan ($4.83). The villagers collect such bricks from the Great Wall without a second thought.

Accordign to Dong Yaohui, it is difficult for the government to fully protect the Great Wall. “In Funing County, there are only 9 people in the department of cultural relics, but they have to go on a 142.5 km tour of inspection. It’s definitely impossible to take good care of the Great Wall by themselves,” Dong said.

How to save the disappearing Great Wall of China?
Workers repair the Banchangyu part of the Great Wall 
[Credit: Xinhua]

Dong also stressed that the counties along the Great Wall are relatively poor. Most of the counties surrounding the Great Wall in Zhangjiakou are national assigned poverty counties. Local governments cannot afford to repair and protect the Great Wall, or only invest in the parts which bring in revenue from tourism.

To some people, developing tourism is an effective way to protect the Great Wall. Xu Guohua, the head of Banchangyu Great Wall Development Company, said that the destruction from the villagers has stopped after development. Meanwhile, tourists know which part of the Great Wall is endangered.

“You have to admit that the development of the wild Great Wall brings rules and regulations to both the villagers and travelers. In recent years, the protection of the Great Wall in our scenic spot became much better than the undeveloped parts in our county,” said Xu.

However, many point out that it is impossible to develop the whole Great Wall into tourism sites. And the development may bring more visitors to the endangered Great Wall, but not all the tourism development companies are committed to protecting the Great Wall. Instead, some of them only focus on the income from tickets, regardless of the intrinsic value of the Great Wall.

How to protect the disappearing Great Wall? Obviously, it is an important test for Chinese society. Just like what Dong Yaohui said in an recent article, “the Great Wall belongs to everybody of China. The duty of protection of the Great Wall not only belongs to the government, but also to the common people. The most urgent goal for us is to arouse the enthusiasm of the public to protect the Great Wall. “

Source: China Daily [June 30, 2015]

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