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Close to a Third of China’s Great Wall Has Perished

While estimates of the total length of the world heritage cite remain unclear, local surveyors and conservationists say human and the environmental factors are helping to erode what remains.

by VICE News
Jun 29 2015, 6:40pm

Photo par Diego Azubel/EPA

Time has not been kind to the Great Wall of China, according to some wall surveyors and conservationists. They estimate that at least one third of the man-made structure has been eroded over time by harsh weather or destroyed by humans, reports Chinese state media.

The Great Wall of China is a cultural landmark, endowment of lasting pride handed down by successive empires, who originally sought to keep out enemies from the north, for many centuries. Try to Google the wall's length today, and you'll find varying modern estimates — some claim it stands at more than 5,500 miles long, others guesstimate it is 6,000 miles in length — right up to estimates that it is more than 13,000 miles long.

The uncertain appraisals of the UNESCO Heritage-listed site's true length can be attributed to some individuals who also include the wall's natural gaps — those occupied by mountains, lakes, and rivers — and others that don't. Many parts have also fallen and been rebuilt since construction started in the 3rd century BC.

The section of wall referred to in the Beijing Times' report referred to the approximately 4,000 miles of the wall built during the the Ming Dynasty between 1368-1644. Of that, some 1,200 miles has since perished, the report said, citing an assessment by the Great Wall of China Society (GWCS) last year, AFP reported.

"Even though some of the walls are built of bricks and stones, they cannot withstand the perennial exposure to wind and rain," the Beijing Times quoted GWCS vice-president Dong Yaohui, as saying. "Many towers are becoming increasingly shaky and may collapse in a single rain storm in summer."

The paper added that the wall had also been impacted by humans, including tourists and poor villagers, who have taken bricks to build houses or to engrave with Chinese characters and resell for 30 yuan ($4.80) each, despite laws prohibiting the dismantling of any part of the wall.

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