It took over 2,000 years and countless human lives sacrificed to construct The Great Wall of China that winds across the country’s deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus. Unfathomably stretching approximately 6,700 kilometers (4,163 miles) from east to west, the ancient, serpentine structure is like a dragon or snake that slumbers undisturbed upon the land.
That is, until it was fractured, as the world found out had happened earlier this month when two people in the Shanxi province were arrested for allegedly using an excavator to dig a shortcut in the wall. Attempting to reduce their daily commute, they caused what officials have called “irreversible damage” to the Ming-era wall.
Which caused me to think about this wall that was originally built to prevent enemies from Mongolia from invading northern regions in China. Instantly, the wall was more than a structure between two dynasties at war. Its meaning expanded beyond a barrier that is, remarkably, a pure, artistic, iconic landscape sculpture I had visited while making images to share with the world.
The wall, revealing its vulnerability, became a symbol of fragility and precious in its value. Like trust, which takes so many years to build, both can be destroyed in mere minutes. A historic landmark like China’s Great Wall represents also a source of security, durability, ever-present beauty. It is a demonstration of human commitment and cooperation that leads to impossible dreams becoming realities. Have we become so shortsighted that we devalue such splendor for simple convenience? I hold the image in front of me and hope it will never be so.