How the Great Wall of China is Slowly Disappearing

The monument is nearly 2,000km shorter already. | By NGT Staff  
Great Wall of China
The Great Wall Of China is one of the country’s biggest tourist draws, attracting about four million visitors every year. Photo: Jonathan Corbet/Flickr/Creative Commons (

China’s Great Wall has lost about a third of its greatness. In 2015, China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) revealed that the Ming-era structure had lost almost 2,000km (about 30 per cent) of its length over the years. This July, following a viral video of a Chinese man destroying a part of the wall with kung fu-style stances, SACH announced plans to strictly enforce its checks.

The dilapidation of the Wall has been attributed to several factors, including natural phenomena like sandstorms and earthquakes. Add to this, the excessive pressure put on the structure by hordes of tourists (about four million every year) and the fact that locals use its bricks to build their houses or sell them as souvenirs. Made of compacted earth and stone, the Great Wall of China was built by various dynasties against invading nomads from the 3rd century B.C. to the 17th century A.D. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it begins at Shanhaiguan in the Hebei province in the east, and ends at Jiayuguan in Gansu province to the west. It runs through 15 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities.

Dong Yaohui, deputy director of the Great Wall of China Society, told CNN, “The Great Wall is a vast heritage site—over 20,000 kilometers—hence increasing the difficulty in preservation and restoration.” In 2006, laws and penalties of up to $805 (₹54,000) were created to protect the Great Wall against defacement, but these have been hard to enforce because there is no central authority that overlooks these charges, as Time reports. SACH will now ensure regular monitoring and spot checks along its perimeter, and launch a public hotline for reports on violations and criminal damage to the site.

Explore China’s Greatest Living Heritage: Shaolin Kung Fu.

Psst. Want a weekly dose of travel inspiration in your inbox?