The Ming Wall of Today

Five hundred years ago the Great Wall was swarming with soldiers.Today, close to 10 million visitors a year explore every nook and cranny of the restored Wall sections close to the capital city of Beijing.

Only about one-third of the Ming Wall still stands. The rest was buried by sandstorms, eroded away, or fell prey to plunderers or developers. The good news is the determination of the Chinese government and preservationists worldwide to protect this one-of-a-kind manmade wonder.

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“Love Our China, Love Our Great Wall” was the slogan dreamed up by the Chinese statesman Deng Xiaoping when he launched a campaign to restore the Ming Wall in 1984. After donations flooded in from Chinese citizens and countries around the world, wall sections began to be repaired or reconstructed.

The Badaling Wall, just west of Beijing, was the first Wall to be renovated. A portion of this mightiest and most impressive section of Ming Wall had been repaired earlier, in the mid-1950s.

The throngs of tourists crowding the Badaling Wall are drawn by more than just the Wall. Wall-related commercial attractions include cable cars, souvenir shops, and Badaling Safari World, a theme park and zoo.

Public and private events including fashion shows, rock concerts, and dances are occasionally held on the Great Wall. Government administrators decide who will be able to rent space, and for how long. The most famous event is the Great Wall Marathon, run near (and on) the Huanghuacheng Wall northeast of Beijing.

“The Wild Wall” is the name given to Ming Wall sections that remain in disrepair. Wind, rain, and time weren’t the only culprits causing the walls to crumble. Villagers and developers alike stole bricks and stones from Wall sites until the Chinese government passed laws to protect the five century-old structures.

Ming Wall ruins in the Gobi Desert and other arid regions far west of Beijing resemble rock towers rising above the sand. These rammed-earth Wall sections weren’t faced with brick and stone, so erosion wore them down over the centuries.

The easternmost point of the Ming Wall is at Hushan (Tiger Mountain), on the border with North Korea. This Wall was little more than a pile of rubble until 1992, when it was reconstructed using Ming techniques and materials.

The castle-fortress at Jiayuguan Pass is the westernmost point of the Ming Wall. Ever since its recent reconstruction, tourists have visited Jiayuguan to admire the ornate gateways, practice archery with bows and arrows like those used by the Ming, and pose with men and women wearing Ming costume.

Preservation of the Great Wall is the focus of many nonprofit organizations, one being International Friends of the Great Wall (www.Friends of the Great, founded in 1989.

— Pages 12–13, The Great Wall of China: A Wall-to-Wall History (Kids Discover Magazine, August 2008 )