What do you picture when you think about the Great Wall of China? Likely, the wall part stands out—the stone, brick, and other materials that were used to build the more than 13,000-mile-long wall. But as Christopher Bodeen reports for the Associated Press, a five-mile stretch of the wall has now been covered in concrete—and people are not amused.
The restoration, which Bodeen calls “a widely mocked project,” was undertaken by Chinese cultural officials to repair a stretch of damaged wall in Xiaohekou. But rather than repair the wall with the proper materials, it was paved over with sand, concrete and other materials and guard towers and fortifications were knocked down.
The New York Times’ Chris Buckley and Adam Wu call the repairs the equivalent of “a cement skateboarding lane dumped in the wilderness.” They report that though the repairs are two years old, they only surfaced recently when they were mourned in a local newspaper.
CNN’s Ben Westcott and Serenitie Wang, spoke with officials who explained that the fix was done with good intentions. But Buckley and Wu note that though officials claim cement was not used in the repairs, they have been contradicted by Liu Fusheng, a park officer who sparked the outcry about the wall.
Regardless of how the section was “repaired,” it almost certainly runs afoul of the 2006 Great Wall Protection Ordinance, which forbids damaging the wall or taking away stones from the edifice. Unesco, which protected the wall as a World Heritage Site in 1987, states that the integrity of the wall’s original construction is key to its cultural relevance. It took over 2,000 years to build the wall, and embedded in its materials is the history of Chinese civilization. Though the original wall wasn’t a single entity, it was eventually pieced together and has become one of Earth’s most famed landmarks. While it’s not entirely true that it’s easily visible from space, the fact that it still stands to this day is a testament to its cultural relevance.
That relevance has long been threatened by the march of time. As Smithsonian.com reported last year, less than 10 percent of the wall is thought to be in good condition, and the iconic structure is threatened by erosion and vandals. Shanghaiist, which calls the stretch “the Great Wall of Concrete,” notes that the work was intended to protect the 700-year-old stretch of wall from the weather—a noble goal, but one that seems to have been attained in the wrong way.
It may never be clear just how the “repair” happened, but one thing is sure: Hatred of the ham-fisted fix has gone viral. The outcry against the wall’s botched repair may seem mean, but perhaps a bit of mockery is what it will take to make the officials who act as the wall’s stewards more serious about their responsibilities.