By P Chong Saturday, 26 December 2009
“Wan Li Chang Cheng” – literally means “Ten Thousand Miles Wall.” It’s not one great wall but a monumental series of wall that constitute The Great Wall of China. They were erected over the centuries to thwart & deter the barbaric invaders from encroaching upon the Middle Kingdom. The Wall twists through Chinese dynastic history. Today the nation welcomes visitors near & far together with their wallets. What the visitors, more than a million a year, really see is the impressive gleaming stretch of wall at Juyongguan near Beijing. Such commercialisation is marring an archaeological treasure as claimed by preservationists.
It’s been more than a fifth of a century since I first stepped & climbed The Great Wall of China. To tell you the truth, the feeling & excitement were simply beyond me! I had led a party of ten to China, all of them virgins in this world of ancient civilisation. Coincidentally, May/June 1989, saw the Tiananmen political debacle undertaken by the students.
In all the years since the landing on the moon, Western writers declared, with absolutely no evidence that the Great Wall could be seen from there. But what Deng Xiaoping, the small & yet most dynamic of a man, proclaimed “Let us love our China, let us restore our Great Wall” has become a well-known slogan.
In the passage of time, I have seen great growth, progress & changes:
From Friendship Stores to Departmental Stores
From virtually no phone to modern convenient cell phones
From million bicycles to million vehicles.
This is truly representative of a complete transformation & material revolution unseen & unheard of in the history of mankind! All within one lifetime, one generation!!
However, there are walls which tourists seldom get to see or visit in the outer reaches where there are crumbling sections of the Wall awaiting attention & preservation.The crumbling walls were never far away, a companion piece to the halfway stage of China’s rush to progress.
Visibly, there are signal towers & walls that stretched out for miles in ruins & villages entirely contained by high-walled forts for security purposes in the ancient days. Some homes carved out from the Walls have 20-foot-thick walls – “Very warm in the winter, cool in the summer”.
It is truly amazing! Now that the smoke signals are replaced by cell phones, what is there in store for the ruined parts of the Wall where even certain sections have disappeared. Will modernity bury archaeology? Will a history of more than 2,000 years be lost in a time vault or capsule?