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'The Piano Guys' scales the Great Wall for video shoot

Internet sensation, the Piano Guys are in China. The Utah-based group took some precious time off their Asian tour in Singapore and Malaysia to fulfil their China dream - shooting a music video on the Great Wall of China...

September 16, 2013
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Great Wall Forest Festival kicks off

The 2013 Yanqing Great Wall Forest Festival, the fourth edition of its kind, was held from August 24 to August 25 in the Tanglewood Music Valley at the foot of the Great Wall Badaling Section in Beijing's Yanqing County...

August 29, 2013
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Jet Team above the Great Wall

Aircraft of Breitling Jet Team, a famous European aerobatic team, perform above the Great Wall of the Jiayuguan Pass in northwest China's Gansu Province, Aug. 13, 2013...

August 16, 2013
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Unique section of the Great Wall draws in visitors

As people all know what the Great Wall looks like but did you know that some of it is built over water? The Jiumenkou section of the wall in Liaoning Province in North East China is famous for just that...

  August 09, 2013
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The conditions and protections of the Great Wall

The sections of the Great Wall near Beijing, Shanhaiguan and Jiayuguan have been well preserved and even reconstructed, but in many sites the Wall is in a poor condition, serving as a playground for some villages and a source of stones to rebuild houses and roads (now it is legally forbidden after Dec 1, 2006). Sections of the Wall are also prone to graffiti. Parts have been destroyed because the Wall is in the way of construction sites. Intact or repaired portions of the Wall near developed tourist areas are often plagued with hawkers of tourist kitsch. The Gobi Desert is also encroaching on the wall in some places. Some estimates say that only 20% of the wall is in a good condition.

The conditions and protections of the Great Wall The Government did realize the importance of the protection of the World Cultural Heritage Site, therefore, since 2005, the relevant government departments have begun to work on the regulations for the protections. The new regulations were enacted on Oct 24, 2006 and came into effect on December 1 of the same year. This is the first government rule of its kind in China applied for one historical site.

The Regulations of Protecting the Great Wall

China issued a regulation on Tuesday (Oct 24th, 2006) banning vandalism and driving on the Great Wall as part of a series of measures to protect the ancient wonder.

The regulation, promulgated by the State Council, also forbids anyone from removing soil or bricks from the Great Wall, planting trees, carving or building anything on the wall that is not designed to protect it.

It also bans the use of vehicles on the wall and the organization of activities on sections not open to tourists.

Anyone who violates the regulations is subject to a fine of between 10,000 and 50,000 yuan (US$1,333 to 6,667). Entities such as institutions or companies can be fined between 50,000 and 500,000 yuan (US$6,667 to 66,667).

The regulation cements the legal obligation of all citizens, legal entities and organizations to protect the Great Wall.

The principle of "preserving its original appearance" is enshrined in the regulation, which emphasizes that no construction projects are allowed in off-limits areas.

The regulation, which came into effect on December 1, 2006, adds that the state encourages citizens and organizations to donate money to Great Wall protection funds.

A feature article at Nationalgeographic.com:

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.

The conditions and protections of the Great Wall 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.

"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.

Some of the barricades are said to date back to the seventh century B.C. But most of what we think of as the Great Wall was built during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644).

Attacks on the Great Wall are nothing new, from Han-dynasty battles with the Huns to damages sustained during the 1930s and '40s war with Japan.

Some of the greatest destruction, however, has been fairly recent.

In the 1950s, for example, Chinese leader Mao Zedong exhorted the masses to "allow the past to serve the present." Farmers were mobilized to demolish parts of the wall and use the bricks for building houses, pigpens, and walls.

As capitalism began making inroads in the 1980s, many officials believed that tourism money would save the wall. But today the industry may pose the biggest threat to the wall's survival.

Poorly executed restoration efforts have left sections near the capital, Beijing, looking like a Hollywood set. Entrepreneurs have set up cable cars, souvenir stalls, fast-food restaurants, amusement facilities, villas, and crowded parking lots—all within a stone's throw of the structure.

In Gansu province a portion of the wall was rented out to farmers, who "restored" the wall by covering it over with cement, then installed a gate, so they could charge admission.

A short distance away tourists have pulled grass from rammed-earth walls—among the oldest and most endangered segments. And Christmas lights have been nailed to the 14th-century towers guarding Gansu's Jiayuguan Great Wall gate.

In perhaps the most egregious infraction, highway crews in China's Inner Mongolia region have smashed holes in the wall to make way for new roads.

For his new book, The Great Wall Revisited, Lindesay, a photographer by training, gathered hundreds of old photos of the Great Wall. He then set out to rephotograph 150 of the locations in the earlier images, creating sobering pairs of then-and-now scenes.

In some cases, he found that sections had disappeared altogether.

"Delivering the evidence is very important," Lindesay said. "You can really see the wall disappearing."

Turning a Corner?

In 2002 the New York-based World Monuments Fund put the Great Wall on its list of the World's 100 Most Endangered Sites. Chinese government officials sat up and took notice.

"It was a wake-up call," said Lindesay, who's spent more than 1,200 days on the wall over the past 20 years.

In 2003 Beijing announced its first regulations to protect the Great Wall in the capital area. Then last December the central government announced a new national law to protect the wall.

It is now illegal to remove bricks or stones from the wall, carve names in the bricks, hold raves on the wall, or build a house against the wall. Also important, the law says that "all citizens, legal entities and organizations" are charged with protecting the wall and reporting illegal activity to government agencies.

Dong Yaohui, vice chairman of the Great Wall Society of China, said the new rules are significant.

"Now the government has clearly made the protection of the Great Wall a national effort," he says. "The law states what can and can't be done, and it says who's responsible. And it defines society's responsibility to protect the Great Wall."

Dong, who walked the entire length of the wall in 1984-85, said that the drafting of the law is a sign of the government's growing awareness of the problem.

Lindesay, of International Friends of the Great Wall, agreed. "The Chinese are realizing that a lot has been lost."

Already the new law is showing its teeth, or at least its gums.

On December 3 a construction company became the first to be fined under the new rules. For dismantling large pieces of the wall to make way for in illegal highway, the authorities fined the builders the equivalent of U.S. $6,500.

A Cultural Revolution?

The wall's biggest problem today, Dong said, is the lack of understanding among the Chinese, whom he said don't realize the true significance of the Great Wall.

The June survey team, for instance, found parts of the wall covered in Chinese graffiti and farmers carting bricks away from the wall, just as they've been doing for decades.

And in November three men in Inner Mongolia were detained for taking earth from an ancient 2,200-year-old section of the wall to use as a landfill for a village factory.

"It's just a pile of earth," village head Hao Zengjun told the official Xinhua News Agency.

Dong said, "Outside of Beijing and [neighboring] Hebei province, the Great Wall is in very poor and backward areas. Trying to get the significance of the wall across to a people worried about their survival is not easy."

A feature story about a Chinese farmer protecting the Great Wall:

Back against the Wall

By Wang Ru 2008-05-06

Back against the Wall

Yang Yongfu, a farmer in Northwest China's Gansu province. Wang Ru

 

In chilly winds of early April, Yang Yongfu, 46, walked in an internal passageway in a section of Great Wall stretching up to the mountaintop. Yang limped along the ridge of the mountain range and reached the signal fire platform at the top. He is not a tourist, but the constructor of the 760-m long Great Wall conjunct with three signal fire platforms.

From 2000 to 2007, the villager renovated the ruined left wing of the Shiguanxia Great Wall, a section at the west end of the Great Wall in Northwest China's Gansu province.

In March, in order to reimburse his 2 million yuan debt ($28,000), which he invested in renovating the Great Wall, Yang auctioned the operation rights of the wall at 5 million yuan base price.

The local government offered him 3.5 million yuan, but he turned it down.

"Time, money and health, I have given all I have to renovate the wall. It is like my son," says Yang.

In 2000, when Yang signed a contract with the local government to restore and utilize the wall, he was known as the "first farmer to renovate the Great Wall". After eight years, the Great Wall was reestablished, but he couldn't stand the burden any more.

In 1962, Yang was born at the foot of the Shiguanxia Great Wall, in a village named Caohuangying of Jiayuguan city.

The Shiguanxia section belongs to the Jiayuguan Pass at the west end of the Great Wall. It was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) as an important stop of the ancient Silk Road and known as "the world's first impregnable pass".

From Jiayuguan Pass, like a giant dragon, the Great Wall winds its way across grasslands, deserts and mountains, spanning 12,000 li, or 6,700 km, and ends at Shanhaiguan Pass on the shores of Bohai Bay.

"In my childhood, the villagers had no idea about the importance of the Great Wall as the nation's cultural heritage," Yang says.

Villagers often dug at the wall to get the clay for building their own houses. The clay could also be used as a rich fertilizer, Yang says.

"There were only 50 m of ruins left. It's hard to imagine that it used to be a part of the Great Wall," Yang says.
Natural and human infliction over the years has reduced the wall into a pile of clay ruins.

From 1982, the local government began to renovate the Jiayuguan Pass. Yang worked in a contractor's team to repair the wall. In 1987, Yang and his uncle contracted the project to renovate the right wing of the Shiguanxia wall. The next year, they finished a 500-m long wall and earned 30,000 yuan, a considerable sum at that time.

From construction projects, Yang earned "easy money". He bought a two-floor house in the center of Jiayuguan city.

In 1988, Yang got the operation right to run the ticket office of the Shiguanxia wall. In return, he needed to hand in 10 percent of his profit as maintenance costs to the local government.

Tourism was developing slowly and Yang's business didn't bring him many visitors, even though the ticket was only 0.25 yuan.

However, as Yang recalls, tourists suddenly started rolling in for the Great Wall in 1994.

Back against the Wall"Tourism seemed a fresh idea to most people. Some tourists even bought tickets for their friends," Yang says.

The ticket price rose to 2 yuan. Yang and his wife opened a souvenir shop at the foot of the wall.

"I bought a souvenir for 9 yuan and sold it at 20 yuan, but it was often out of stock," Yang says. "It felt like 'robbing money'."

The local government took back his ticket operation right later. But Yang had seen a gold mine at the Great Wall.

In 1999, the local cultural heritage protection department looked for enterprises and individuals to co-develop the left wing of the Shiguanxia Great Wall.

Yang was too excited to sleep. One night at 11 pm, he climbed the snowy mountain and measured the span of the wall. "The Great Wall has been repaired and expanded in the past 2,000 years, so why can't I rebuild it?" Yang says.

In 2000, Yang and his partner signed a contract with the local government to restore and utilize the left wing of the wall. He got a 30-year operation right and a privilege to further the right for another 20 years.

To rebuild this section of the Great Wall was a painstaking effort. The emperors could call up millions of soldiers, civilians and criminals, but Yang could only depend on himself and his contract laborers.

The Great Wall was built mainly with bricks, stones and special clay. The clay needs to be mixed with water and then dried at a certain temperature. Yang had to transport the clay from 8 km away.

The most difficult part was to transport stones to the mountaintop. Steep mountain lanes forbid vehicles to transport the heavy load. Yang hired workers to carry the stones, each weighing 20 kg, up the mountain like ancient builders did.

The signal fire platform stands at the mountaintop, leaving no space for a construction structure. Yang and his workers risked falling from the mountain to build the platform.

Besides restoring the wall, Yang installed an irrigation system to plant 20,000 trees and raise fish in ponds. He also opened two restaurants.

The initial investment of 800,000 yuan went quickly. Yang borrowed money from friends and got bank loans.

In 2003, Yang finished the 500-m long wall. There was still 250 m left, but he was heavily in debt.

The local government asked Yang to change the name of "Shiguanxia Great Wall" to "Shiguanxia Amusement Park". Yang did not like the idea.

"What I had been building was a section of Great Wall, not an amusement park. People wouldn't come to see a fake wall," Yang says. The local government withdrew its order.

Tourism did not develop as fast as Yang had expected. Most tourists prefer visiting the nearby Jiayuguan Great Wall, which is more famous and was restored earlier by the local government, Yang says.

In 2003, Yang sold his house in the city to pay the loans. His partner quit and the creditors often came to his home to ask for money.

Yang and his family live in his office near the wall. A color TV he bought in 1987 is the only electronic appliance that remains.

At the end of 2003, since he couldn't afford coal to get warm, he suffered an apoplexy and became lame.

But Yang did not stop. He borrowed money and finally finished the remaining 250-m last April. Yang fulfilled his dream of building the Great Wall. But one year later, the father of two sons decided to sell it for the family's wellbeing.

According to the Great Wall Protection Administration Law, which went into effect in December 2006, no individual has the right to run or sell the Great Wall, says Cheng Dalin, chairman of the Great Wall Research Committee. It means Yang cannot sell the operation right to anyone.

However, Cheng says the contract between Yang and the local government was "legitimate" as it was inked when "the country was transforming from a planned economy to a market economy for the aim of cultural heritage protection".

The Great Wall belongs to the whole nation, not to any individual. But Yang indeed contributed to restoring the Great Wall, a responsibility that the local government should take. Therefore, he ought be compensated properly, Cheng says.

(China Daily 05/06/2008 page20)

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Famous Sections of the Great Wall: