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The Great Wall Conservation Conundrum


Just how great is the Great Wall? People who visit the Great Wall at Badaling in Beijing often mistake it as the only section of the wall that is open to tourists, or even representative of the whole span of the Great Wall. However, this architectural wonder spreads over tens of thousands of kilometers through China's countryside.

Built over 2,000 years ago, the Great Wall was constructed by dozens of dynasties in history including the Warring Period (475BC-221BC), the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC), the Tang Dynasty (618-907), until finally, the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The wall stretches 21,196 kilometers and snakes through 403 counties in 15 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.

Unlike the maintained Great Wall at Badaling in Beijing, the focus of most tourists, other sections of the wall have been corroding from the effects of nature and negligence.

Disappearing sections

Getting to the Great Wall section at Changcheng town, Wuqi county in northwest Shaanxi Province is not easy. Lured by the idea that this area of the Great Wall was built during the Ming Dynasty and is the beginning of the Great Wall within Shaanxi Province, adventurous tourists often venture here. But after hours of climbing hills, most find themselves lost amidst massive plateaus, with the wall nowhere in sight.

"We have many travelers come, but we have to guide them through," said Feng Huoyu, a local official at the town of Changcheng. "Like today there were around 50 visitors," he told the Global Times.

As more research about the wild sections of the Great Wall is revealed, interest in these sites rise.

After four hours journeying from Wuqi county to the site, travelers were surprised when they finally saw the section of the Great Wall. It would have been difficult to spot, were it not for the big beacon tower. The majority of the wall had disappeared, after years of abandon. The exterior bricks and tiles outside the wall were eroded.

"There aren't any protection measures set, but there will be soon," said Feng. "Bureaus at the county and provincial levels will send experts over to repair, and our town government will patrol the wall, prohibiting damage from visitors."

Along the mountain road to Changcheng town, new roads were being built by heavy machinery. "Traffic here is not convenient. New roads are being built to facilitate locals and tourists. We are applying to develop this section of the Great Wall as an official scenic spot," Feng said.

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