Great Wall of China Overrun, Damaged, Disneyfied

Paul Mooney in Beijing
for National Geographic News
May 15, 2007

Archaeologists last week announced the discovery of a new section of the Great Wall of China near the Mongolian border—the northernmost segment ever found.

But what's most noticeable about the wall today is not what's reappearing but what's vanishing.

After decades of government neglect and intentional destruction, the Great Wall is by turns crumbling, Disneyfied, and riddled with relatively new gaps you could literally drive a truck through.

Now, a new national law aims to protect the national treasure, though the first penalties have been relatively mild.

Thirty percent of the Great Wall is in ruins, and another 20 percent is in "reasonable" condition, according to a survey of a hundred sections of the wall carried out last June by the Great Wall Society of China.

The remaining 50 percent has already disappeared.

"The Great Wall's greatness lies in its totality," said William Lindesay, the founder of International Friends of the Great Wall.

(Related: Learn about the Great Wall.)

"If there's one brick less, or another gap to make way for a dirt road, then the continuity of the wall is broken and the value is reduced."

"Barbarian" Break-In

The Great Wall was never actually a single wall but many walls, snaking along a 4,000-mile (6,400-kilometer) east-west path across northern China.

(See a map of the region.)

Continued on Next Page >>


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