< Go to Homepage

Rebuilding the Great Wall of China One Brick at a Time

Workers use historically appropriate techniques to repair dangerous stretch north of Beijing.

History By

A 12-mile section of the Great Wall of China has been under restoration for more than decade—with craftsman using techniques that would not have been out of place seven centuries ago.

The stretch lies north of central Beijing, Jiankou, along one of the most dangerous and most dilapidated stretches of the Great Wall.

The steep 700-year-old section was built in the 1600’s during the Ming Dynasty. So it’s appropriate that workers today are relying on mules to transport bricks up the high mountain terrain and use only basic tools such as chisels, hammers, pickaxes and shovels.

Great Wall of China
Early morning fog covers the Jiankou section of the Great Wall, located in Huairou District, north of Beijing, China, June 7, 2017. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Workers salvage and reuse original bricks that have come off the wall over the centuries where possible and use new bricks made to exact specifications where they found none that’s usable.

“We have to stick to the original format, the original material and the original craftsmanship, so that we can better preserve the historical and cultural values,” Cheng Yongmao, the engineer leading Jiankou’s restoration told Reuters.

So far, only a tenth of the wall has been repaired.

Great Wall of China
A man walks behind a mule carrying bricks up the steep path towards the Jiankou section of the Great Wall, located in Huairou District, north of Beijing, China, June 7, 2017. “The path is too steep and the mountains are too high, so bricks can only be transported by mules,” said local mule owner Cao Xinhua. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
Great Wall of China
People rest after working on the reconstruction of the Jiankou section of the Great Wall, located in Huairou District, north of Beijing, China, June 7, 2017. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
Great Wall of China
People work on the reconstruction of the Jiankou section of the Great Wall, located in Huairou District, north of Beijing, China, June 7, 2017. (Damir Sagolj/ Reuters)
Great Wall of China
People wait for bricks and other equipment to be delivered as they work on the reconstruction of the Jiankou section of the Great Wall, located in Huairou District, north of Beijing, China, June 7, 2017. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
Great Wall of China
People rest after working on the reconstruction of the Jiankou section of the Great Wall, located in Huairou District, north of Beijing, China, June 7, 2017. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
Great Wall of China
A man rests while working on the reconstruction of the Jiankou section of the Great Wall, located in Huairou District, north of Beijing, China, June 7, 2017. (Damir Sagolj/ Reuters)
Great Wall of China
People work on the reconstruction of the Jiankou section of the Great Wall, located in Huairou District, north of Beijing, China, June 7, 2017. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
Great Wall of China
An airplane flies over the Jiankou section of the Great Wall, located in Huairou District, north of Beijing, China, June 7, 2017. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
Read full story at Reuters