A section of China’s Great Wall has been “repaired” with what appears to be cement, stoking concerns over how the nation is safeguarding its cultural wealth.
The restoration work was carried out by the government of Suizhong county on the border of Liaoning and Hebei provinces.
As is the case in many rural areas through which the wall passes, bricks had come loose and the structure was at risk of collapsing, especially during heavy rain, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.
The county’s cultural relics bureau had received approval for the project from the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, the report quoted a bureau staff member as saying. He said lime was used to repair a stretch in Xiaokekou village and all the steps were reasonable and legal.
The report quoted a villager as saying the work covered a 2km section and was completed two years ago.
But the project only came to wider attention after tourists and amateur photographers posted photos online. The photos show the top of the wall paved as smooth as a concrete road. Original features, including crenels which soldiers used to shoot arrows at approaching enemies, have been covered up.
The project drew criticism from online users as well as heritage experts. Dong Yaohui, deputy director of the Great Wall Society of China, said he was “heartbroken” every time he saw the ancient battlement renovated “beyond all recognition like this”, according to the report.
The section in Suizhou was not the only area where poor repairs had been undertaken, Dong said, noting there was no national standard on how restoration should be carried out.
He said a fundamental goal should be to ensure original features were retained as much as possible, “so as to preserve the historical message carried by the Great Wall”.
Some commentators online were more barbed, with one user asking: “Are they going to fix tiles on it next?”