Great Wall landmark crumbles, raising fears

Tourists at the Moon Gate on Monday (left) and the same structure which was part of a watchtower along the Guangwu section of the Great Wall that collapsed later that day.
Tourists at the Moon Gate on Monday (left) and the same structure which was part of a watchtower along the Guangwu section of the Great Wall that collapsed later that day. PHOTOS: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

BEIJING • A famous Great Wall landmark in Shanxi province collapsed earlier this week, raising questions over the protection of the Unesco World Heritage site.

The structure, known as Moon Gate, was part of an old watchtower along the Guangwu section of the Great Wall. The stretch was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Already weakened by environmental degradation and activities such as mining and the theft of bricks over the centuries, the structure collapsed on Monday night, reported Chinese media.

Unlike the world-renowned Badaling and Juyongguan sections in Beijing, most parts of the wall that once stretched 20,000km in length are exposed to the elements and reckless human activities.

"Less than 10 per cent of the Great Wall remains in good condition. Around 20 per cent is badly damaged, and 30 per cent has already disappeared," Mr Dong Yaohui, vice-president of China Great Wall Society, told state broadcaster CCTV.

Just two weeks ago, the botched repair job on a section of the wall in Liaoning province had triggered outrage in China and abroad. Guard towers along the 700-year- old stretch were knocked flat and its uneven, crumbling steps filled in with white cement in 2014.

Even though China formulated a Great Wall Protection Regulation in 2006, and invested millions in restoration efforts, experts say a lack of standardised procedures has led to poor repair jobs.

Mr Wu Guoqiang, the society's secretary-general, has called for the setting up of a special foundation to protect the Great Wall, which spans 15 provinces and municipalities.

"If we can use 3D modelling and virtual reality technologies to map out bricks and cracks in the Great Wall, it will improve the quality of restoration," he told China Daily.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2016, with the headline 'Great Wall landmark crumbles, raising fears'. Print Edition | Subscribe