CRUDE, basic, not ideal, “vandalism in the name of preservation”, “so ugly you can probably see it from space”.
These are some of the kinder descriptions of China’s repair job on one section of the nearly 700-year-old Great Wall, a world-famous UNESCO Heritage Site and a symbol of national pride for the country.
And from pictures of the recently restored Xiaohekou section of the Great Wall in China’s northeastern Liaoning province, it looks like these critics weren’t exaggerating.
The five-mile (8km) stretch appears to have been filled in and smoothed over with mortar, making it look more like a gray concrete sidewalk than the global treasure it is.
According to the New York Times, the repairs were done in 2014 but the matter only came to light when it appeared in an article on The Huashang Morning News on Wednesday. Another widely-read local daily, the Beijing News, also front-paged the story of the ruined ruins.
Immediately, social media was awash with comments on the so-called “restoration”.
“This cultural relic is now worthless. Is this restoration? No, it’s destruction!” Time quoted one incensed commenter saying on Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter.
World’s worst restoration? Remote section of China’s Great Wall covered in cement https://t.co/GUYzDpH5oL
— Martin Fackler (@facklernyt) September 22, 2016
“Glad Venus de Milo is not in China, or someone would get her a new arm,” one user was quoted saying.
Responding to criticisms, Chinese officials reportedly admitted that the repairs were less than ideal.
“It really was an ugly repair job,” BBC quoted Ding Hui, head of the Liaoning Provincial Antiquities Bureau, as saying.
The official explained that the repairs were to fill broken gaps and add a protective layer on the top surface “like a hat”, to protect the pavement from exposure to the elements.
But, he admitted that “the surface does not look ideal”.
In CNN’s report, Great Wall of China Society deputy director Dong Yaohui too admitted the restoration work had been done “very badly”.
— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) September 22, 2016
“It damaged the original look of the Great Wall and took away the history of the people. Although the local government was well intentioned and wanted to restore the bricks of the wall, the result turned out to be the opposite,” he was quoted saying.
In the New York Times, a park officer from the county who first highlighted the renovation called it “vandalism in the name of preservation”.
“Even the little kids here know that this repair of the Great Wall was botched,” Liu Fusheng told the U.S. daily.
There are strict regulations governing preservation of the Great Wall, which is crumbling in some of the more remote sections. According to BBC, the punishment for damaging the wall is 10 years’ jail time.
The Great Wall, made a Unesco world heritage site in 1987, was built and rebuilt through a series of fortifications between 220 BC and the Ming Dynasty in the 1600s.
Using stones, bricks, wood, tamped earth and a variety of other materials, the wall was constructed along the east-to-west line across the northern borders of China to protect the Chinese states and empires from invasions.
This story first appeared on Asian Correspondent.