The Chinese government has launched a 2.6-billion-yuan (US$333 million) project to protect Shanhaiguan Pass at the eastern end of the Great Wall, the Ministry of Culture has announced.
The one-year project involves two sections: 1 billion yuan for on site building repairs, and 1.6 billion yuan for the protection of cultural relics.
Shanhaiguan Pass, about 26 kilometers northeast of Qinhuangdao City in north China's Hebei Province, stands at the eastern end of the Great Wall, which starts at Jiayuguan Pass, in northwestern Gansu Province, and stretches for 6,000 kilometers to end at Shanhaiguan, on the shores of Bohai Bay.
Dong Yaohui, Deputy President of the China Great Wall Association, said the Shanhaiguan Pass and other parts of the Great Wall had suffered extensive natural and human damage in recent years. Only 30 percent of the wall built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) remained standing.
Construction of Shanhaiguan Pass began in 1381 and was completed in 1402. It comprises 26 kilometers of wall and 129 watchtowers. They were a militarily strategic point in the defense of Beijing.
However, 3,300 meters of the 4,600-meter wall around a garrison town outside the pass gate have collapsed. Many battlements and watchtowers on the Shanhaiguan Great Wall section have been damaged.
"Apart from repair and protection, we will step up publicity to raise awareness of protection among tourists," said Shi Xiaofeng, director of cultural relics protection bureau of Qinhuangdao City.
The annual tourism revenue from Shanhaiguan Pass is expected to top 500 million yuan in 2006 with over three million tourists awaited.
The city government of Qinhuangdao is planning to open a Shanhaiguan Pass museum to teach tourists about its history and culture.
"We need to balance the development of tourism and protection of the Great Wall, so we will also strengthen control and supervision of stores, restaurants and other commercial facilities inside the scenic zone of the Shanhaiguan Pass," Shi said.
The Great Wall is unique in its size and complexity. Different sections meander thousands of miles, passing through provinces and autonomous regions, including Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hebei and Liaoning, in north China. Construction of the Wall began during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), when separate sections were built in scattered strategic areas.
Like other sites of historical interests around the world, the Great Wall is threatened by damages caused by nature and human activities.
"The size of the Great Wall poses difficulties in protection since a large portion is located in poor, remote areas where few people reside," said Li Shuwang, deputy head of the special zone management committee on Beijing's Badaling section of the Great Wall.
Only a few sections have opened to tourists, and the remainder stand on high remote mountains. "This is a fact we must face in protecting the Great Wall," Li said.
A hip-hop party held on Beijing's Jinshanling section of the Great wall in July last year caused outrage at the possible damageit caused.
China's first ever regulation on the protection of the Great Wall, banning commercial activities, came into effect early this month.
Individuals who break the regulations can be fined between 10,000 and 50,000 yuan (US$1,282 to US$6,410) while institutions can be fined 50,000 to 500,000 yuan (US$6,410 to US$64,100).
The regulation, promulgated by the State Council, prohibits taking soil or bricks from the Great Wall, planting trees, driving motorcycles, carving on the wall or building anything that does not help protect the Wall.
Chai Xiaoming, Deputy Director of Cultural Heritage Protection at the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, said the regulation is as vital as the repair projects since it provides a legal basis for the punishment of those who deface the ancient wonder. It also helps promote heritage protection awareness.
The Great Wall is under state key protection in China. It was put on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1987.
(Xinhua News Agency December 31, 2006)