Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Venture - Kumuka Worldwide's FREE Travel Magazine

Mao & then

Few countries have a history to match China, and few are changing as fast. Roderick Eime tramps Beijing and the Great Wall and finds the past overlaid by an exciting, dynamic future.

“You are walking… puff... on the world’s longest.. puff, puff… cemetery,” said Miranda, our guide, as we heaved and wheezed up the near vertical inclines of China’s Great Wall. She was talking about the horrendous toll of slave workers who perished during the building of the world’s longest man-made structure, which snakes across the Chinese landscape and which, just at this moment, seemed more like a mountain than anything built by hand.

Once intended to keep nomads and plunderers out, this modern archaeological mecca has found a new role: as a central attraction for literally millions of tourists from all over the world. It’s a wonder the delicate construction is still standing after the combined tramping of millions of pairs of feet. Then again, it is made from compacted earth, so perhaps we are contributing to the restoration?