The Great Wall of China: designated graffiti spots to prevent damage elsewhere

12 Mar


(Image reprinted from BBC 2014)

An interesting move has been made by the officials responsible for the protection of one of China’s most coveted national treasures; in order to “better protect the ancient buildings in the long run” (BBC 2014), designated graffiti zones have been set up, in order to ‘take the hit’, or so to speak, from the thousands of visitors who insist on leaving their mark on the ancient site.

The most popular and well preserved section of the wall, named “Mutianyu”, has seen special dedicated graffiti zones set up, where tourists will be able to leave their mark, which officials hope will stave off graffiti being left elsewhere on the wall.

The section under scrutiny, Mutianyu, is held as “one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall” (China Daily 2014), and is located in the Huairou district, which is 70 km northeast of central Beijing. It is reported that the majority of the graffiti left is, embarrassingly, written in English language; the move to allow such graffiti to take place is surprising, given China’s hard-line policy approaches to similar acts of ‘vandalism’.

It begs to ask the question whether such soft approaches would have been taken against those leaving graffiti, had the perpetrators not been foreign tourists; one can imagine that the penalty for such disrespect to one of China’s most coveted historical assets would be far higher for the local population. The official’s decision to work with the tourists, rather than simply enforcing stricter rules is highly debated; many believe, including citizens of foreign nationalities, that letting tourists graffiti in a designated zone is simply allowing vandalism to occur,  and is not only a poor deterrent but a show of weakness on the officials behalf.  

The big question really is; will this move act as a deterrent? Will tourists not want to be lost “within the crowd”, and look to graffiti elsewhere in an attempt of leaving an ’individual’ mark? Only time will tell.


BBC 2014, “China: Great Wall gets graffiti zone”. Available: [Accessed 12th March 2014]

China Daily 2014, “Great Wall graffiti gets free hand”. Available [Accessed 12th March 2014]




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