Newly renovated Great Wall sections collapse in rain as ancient originals stand firm

2018-08-01 10:11:05Global Times Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

A renovated part of the Great Wall collapsed recently, after several days of heavy rains in Dai county in North China's Shanxi Province.

Adjacent to the collapsed section, which was "renovated" eight years ago, is the 500-year-old Yanmen Pass, which has stood for centuries without "help" from local officials.

The local tourism administration said that they are now taking emergency measures to repair the section, and the site is temporarily closed over safety concerns.

The reopening date will be announced later, according to the Shanxi Evening News.

The Yanmen Pass, built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), sits in the Yanmen Mountains, 20 kilometers north of Dai county. It is historically an important pass of the Great Wall, admired for its grandeur. The collapsed section is in the north of the Yanmen Pass.

Separately, a report on WeChat claimed that another construction site along the Great Wall, by the Yellow River, also collapsed due to the rainfall in recent days. 

"Sometimes I was thinking why you [people renovating the Wall] can't do things more seriously. Why can't you devote all your energy?" read the article published on Wechat citizen journalist account Xiaozhanbianjibu.

The article struck a chord with many netizens who are unsatisfied with the shoddy renovation projects along the Great Wall, which are reported to be rampant all over the country. 

Due to the popularity of the wall, which millions of tourists from around the world visit each year, governments at different levels are rebuilding the ancient heritage site in their regions into tourist attractions. 

Experts warn that inappropriate renovation could bring more damage than protection to the Great Wall.  

China's Great Wall stretches about 21,200  kilometers and spans 15 provincial areas, according to the Xinhua News Agency. 

A widespread phenomenon 

The recent collapse at Yanmen Pass offers a glimpse of the long, controversial history of renovation projects along the Great Wall.

In June, online reports about a botched renovation of the Wall in Shanxi's Datong surfaced. The reports said that the local authorities used modern materials made to look like ancient brick in their repair work. The renovation started in April and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019. 

Later the authorities denied it and said the materials were "handmade bricks based on the ancient methods." But this explanation didn't soothe the public's anxieties, given there have been so many similar problematic renovation projects in previous years.

In 2016, the Chinese public was appalled at the Great Wall's renovation in Liaoning Province, where a team paved the wall over with smooth cement. 

"They filled the crenelations and paved the walkways with cement. It does not look like the Great Wall I had in mind at all," a tourist surnamed Ye, who went to see the Xiaohekou Great Wall earlier this year, told the Global Times in an earlier report. This specific section was built in 1381 is widely known as the "most beautiful section of the Great Wall" among tourists. 

An employee from the tourism administration explained that the initial intention was to "make it more suitable for tourists to walk on." 

Xinhua also reported in 2004 that in the Baiyangyu section of the Great Wall at Qianan, Hebei Province, some 300 meters of the Wall was painted white by the construction team, which lacked basic skills in restoring cultural heritage sites. 

Protection alliance

He Xinyu, a researcher specializing in the protection of the Great Wall at the Ningxia Museum, told the Global Times in a previous report that government should not take the convenience of tourists into consideration in renovation.

He said that it's necessary to use only the original materials in repair, otherwise it could do "more damage than protection" to the site. 

Wang Guixiang, a professor of ancient architecture at Tsinghua University, once pointed out to the Global Times that if damage happens during  renovations, it would be "irreversible."

Wang added that some construction teams lack knowledge about the protection of cultural relics. 

To address these issues, a nationwide alliance to protect the Great Wall was set up this month. About 41 organizations including government departments and NGOs joined the alliance, which was  initiated by the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage and the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage,said Xinhua.



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