The Great Wall of China, the only structure of its kind to enter the World Heritage list is badly affected by the tourists’ methods of making their presence felt, which is why Chinese authorities have set up a free graffiti zone for tourists. Mutianyu, a section of the millenia-old structure has been declared a free graffiti area where visitors can leave their marks without getting in trouble. The new attempt to save the construction from the millions of visitors’ carvings has already been materialized.
A sheet of plastic has been set up inside of Mutianyu’s Tower 10 in order to mark the free graffiti zone made especially for tourists who have been vandalizing the Great Wall of China for years. In a recent interview, Dong Yaohui, deputy Chairman of the Great Wall Association told the press that no brick has been left clean graffiti-free and he recalled a moment when he received a dignitary visit in 1998 and felt ashamed of the carvings, especially since they have been made by his Chinese fellows. The Great Wall of China attracts millions of visitors on a yearly basis, out of which approximately 40 percent are estimated to be foreigners, which also explains why most of the graffiti is in English. In order to preserve the United Nations’ designated world heritage site, Chinese authorities are determined to set up free graffiti zones in other towers as well, where tourists usually stop and admire the scenery, then give their names a sense of timelessness by carving them into the bricks.
Protecting the Great Wall
In August 2003, a local law was proclaimed in order to protect the Great Wall of China, which determined both local government bodies and tourists to take measures to protect the structure, but the carving did not stop. As a result, Chinese authorities have set up free a graffiti zone for tourists to leave their names in a less damaging way. Therefore, visitors can now scrawl on a sheet of plastic , but the disadvantage is that once the screens are filled with graffiti, they will be replaced.
A vendor selling Tsingtao beer believes that the screens will not prevent people from carving their name on the Great Wall of China’s bricks, because they wish to see their markings next time they return to the structure and this will not be possible with the current measures. The unnamed vendor also stated that the Mutianyu administration is “defacing the relics,” because the wood frames of the screens are nailed onto the ancient bricks, which causes more damage than the graffiti.
The Great Wall of China has received a Disney treatment, with gift shops, bus tours and chair lifts to entertain the tourists and offer them a more commercial experience. At Mutianyu, a metal toboggan chute allows visitors to hear screams from people descending from the structure. In this area, patrols and posted signs which discourage graffiti have been recently organized, but both attempts have proved to be unsuccessful. The Great Wall of China has set up a free graffiti zone for tourists in Tower 10, but more screens are expected to be established in Towers five and 14.
By Gabriela Motroc
The Sacramento Bee