People Keep Stealing Bricks From the Great Wall of China

July 29, 2016 | Updated: 10:21 a.m., July 29, 2016

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The Great Wall is disappearing, brick by brick, and Chinese authorities have had enough.

A new campaign has been launched to protect the ancient fortification that snakes for 13,000 miles across northern China from criminal damage.

Built in different stages from the third century B.C. to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the wall was built to defend an empire but parts of it are now crumbling.

Bricks have been stolen to build houses, for agriculture or to sell as souvenirs to tourists — exacerbating the natural erosion wrought by wind, rain and sandstorms.

The crackdown will include spots checks, regular inspections and a hotline to allow members of the public to report damage, official news agency Xinhua reported.

The State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) first outlined the new regulations earlier this year but the issue has been in the headlines after a video of a man kicking and vandalizing the wall went viral on Chinese social media last week.

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Many China visitors associate the Great Wall with an extensively restored stretch of Ming era wall at Badaling near Beijing, but this is far from typical of most of the structure.

According to official statistics, around 30% of the Ming Dynasty section of the wall has already disappeared and less than 10% is considered well preserved.

“The Great Wall is a vast heritage site — over 20,000 kilometers — hence increasing the difficulty in preservation and restoration,” Dong Yaohui, deputy director of the Great Wall of China Society, said last year.