How do you repair crumbling, centuries-old sections of the Great Wall of China? According to some Chinese officials, simply pave over the stretch with a cement-like substance so it resembles a smooth road. Efficiency!
Such is the fate of a 700-year-old, five-mile stretch of the wall in northern China’s Suizhong County, thanks to the regional Cultural Relics Bureau, as China.org reported. Apparently known as the “most beautiful wild stretch of the Great Wall,” it had many weathered towers and crenelations — mosaics of stone, earth, brick, and other material — that have now vanished under smooth slab, making it perfect for segway tours or Kanye West’s next fashion show. The section underwent restoration in 2014, but its new look came to public attention only recently, after outraged Chinese netizens started sharing photographs on social media. Unsurprisingly, people got mad, fast.
“This was vandalism done in the name of preservation,” Liu Fusheng, a local park officer who was among the first to publicize the unexpected makeover, told the New York Times. “Even the little kids here know that this repair of the Great Wall was botched.” Fusheng also noted that old stone carvings that had fallen from towers were not restored and reintegrated; repairmen instead replaced them with new bricks.
Built in the Ming Dynasty, like the majority of the wall, the Suizhong section has long needed structural support, according to China.org. The Cultural Relics Bureau said the repair was part of an emergency project to prevent further damage from heavy rain or natural disaster. But even the bureau’s director knew the plan wasn’t ideal.
“It didn’t look pretty just after we finished our work,” Ding Hui said. “We knew it from beginning. And we tried to improve it starting one year ago. We felt upset, too, but this was the only method of resolving the problem offered by the experts.” He added that no established standard exists for how to restore the many crumbling portions of the Great Wall, so the results vary.
This one, however, executed with what Hui’s bureau says was a mixture of lime and sand, will not be pardoned quite so easily. The State Administration of Cultural Heritage, which had approved the preservation plans in 2012, released a statement to say that it’s now investigating what happened. The document also notes that a government body has been working since 2014 to compile a standardized set of guidelines to ensure proper preservation of all parts of the wall.