Around one-third of China’s Great Wall has dissolved over time, due not only to the harsh natural elements, but also to human activity. Lack of strict management surrounding the Ming-era structure has led to people dismantling and stealing bricks to build houses, while wear and tear from centuries of tourism has taken a heavy toll on the Unesco Heritage Site as well.
The Great Wall is made up of several sections and stretches out from Shanhaiguan to the edge of the Gobi Desert. Although construction was first carried out in the third century BC, around 4,000 miles of the wall, including the sections north of Beijing visited regularly by tourists, were built in the Ming Dynasty.
A recent report from Beijing Times has estimated that around 1,200 of that has disappeared over the centuries.
The Associated Press elaborates:
Some of the construction weathered away, while plants growing in the walls have accelerated the decay, said the report Sunday, citing a survey last year by the Great Wall of China Society.
“Even though some of the walls are built of bricks and stones, they cannot withstand the perennial exposure to wind and rain,” the paper quoted Dong Yaohui, a vice president of the society, as saying.
[…] Poor villagers in Lulong county in the northern province of Hebei used to knock thick grey bricks from a section of wall in their village to build homes, and slabs engraved with Chinese characters were sold for 30 yuan ($4.80) each by local residents, it said.
[…] It added that explorations of undeveloped parts of the Great Wall — an increasingly popular leisure activity in recent years — had brought those sections more tourists than they could bear, damaging them severely.
Let’s not forget all the camping and urinating.
In 2006, China published “The Great Wall Protection Code”, but critics have pointed out that the regulations are vague in details and not strongly enforced.
by Maggie Wong