The Great Wall Of China Is Disappearing, Brick By Brick

The Great Wall of China is a well-known UNESCO site and popular tourist destination. However, the wall is gradually being eroded away, as people steal bricks as souvenirs, or to build homes. Now China is taking action to stop this erosion.

While the Great Wall is not a single, unbroken structure, it is estimated to extend some 13,000 miles (21,000 kilometers) in total. The wall stretches for thousands of miles in sections, from the east coast of China all the way to the edge of the Gobi desert.

Construction of the massive defense wall started in the third century BC, but almost 6,300 kilometers were built during the Ming Dynasty from 1368-1644, including the most-visited and popular sections just north of China's capital, Beijing.

After bricks started to go missing from the Great Wall around ten years ago, China introduced protection laws, but the problem still continues. The protection campaign, dubbed the "Great Wall Protection Code," was launched after the rise in tourism and the idea of stealing bricks to build houses took away around a third of the UNESCO site. Natural erosion has also left its mark.

As reported by the Guardian, further and more stringent laws were introduced, but according to Chinese state media, around 30 percent of the wall has disappeared over the years.

While the country handed out fines of 5,000 yuan to anyone taking Great Wall bricks, poor villages in Lulong county in the northern province of Hebei were known to knock out thick, grey bricks from a section of the wall in their village in order to build homes.

There's also vandalism. As reported recently by the Inquisitr, destruction of part of the Great Wall was captured on video. The footage, which went viral, showed an Asian man kicking at the wall. In other parts of the video footage, the man could be seen forcibly removing a brick from the wall, kicking it, thus causing another brick to fall and portions of the structure to crumble.

It turns out that person was just trying to gain attention on social media and handed himself in, but more damage continues on a regular basis.

The Great Wall of China
[Image via Flickr by Vin Crosbie/CC BY-ND 2.0]While this problem continues, China is now taking action to prevent the loss of any more of its UNESCO heritage site. The State Administration of Cultural Heritage is forming "inspection groups to investigate the conservation situation of the Great Wall in each province," according to a notice on the body's website. With concerns that the country's greatest historic site is being eroded away, the project will last until October this year.

As reported by the Telegraph, local culture official Li Yingnian told the Xinhua state news agency, "We need to invest more resources and money to conserve the Great Wall, particularly in those areas which have not been developed and are unable to make a profit (from tourism)."

However, it is not just loss of bricks from the Great Wall that is worrying. According to China's Great Wall Society, they released a survey back in 2014 that warned that many of the towers along its expanse were also becoming increasingly shaky.

"It doesn't have large-scale damage, but if you accumulate the different damaged parts, it is very serious," said the society's vice-chairman, Dong Yaohui. "The problem is we spend a lot of money on repairing the Great Wall instead of preserving the Great Wall."

As the wall passes through 15 provinces and regions of the country, the checks will be carried out throughout, according to regulations, in an effort to prevent the further deterioration of the UNESCO world heritage site.

[Photo via Flickr by Indraneel Biswas, cropped and resized/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]