Rebuilding the Great Wall of China
What was once a symbol of China's impenetrable strength is showing its age. Now, a massive restoration project is underway.
(REUTERS/Damir Sagolj)In Jiankou — a particularly scenic but treacherous 12-mile stretch two hours north of Beijing — the wall winds along a series of sharp cliffs and slopes. This makes it impossible to hoist up or hold modern machinery, so repair efforts have relied on old reconstruction methods: Traditional bricks are laid by hand using extremely basic tools and hauled by pack of very tough mules.Each day, starting at 6 a.m., mules are saddled with up to 440 pounds of bricks each, which they lug up a steep forest passageway to waiting workers. These beasts of burden traverse the jagged ridges for 10 hours each day.
(REUTERS/Damir Sagolj)Laborers and their supplies are also held to strict standards by local governments, which insist on preserving the wall's natural beauty and original design. That means bricks are hoisted up to the highest locations in buckets by traditional pulley systems. They are put into place using only very simple hammers, chisels, and shovels. Even the bricks themselves must be actual ancient pieces that have fallen from the wall previously — or exact replicas.After workers in the northeastern Liaoning province paved their section with sand and cement, the public was outraged over the "ugly" pedestrian-pavement look. So now, authorities are keeping a closer watch on the progress to ensure the wall maintains its authentic look."We have to stick to the original format, the original material, and the original craftsmanship, so that we can better preserve the historical and cultural values," Cheng Yongmao, the lead engineer for Jiankou's reconstruction, told Reuters. Cheng, who comes from a long ancestry of traditional brick makers, has helped rebuild 11 miles of the wall over the course of more than a decade.Have a look at the delicate and sometimes painstaking process of restoring the Great Wall to its original glory: