||The Great Wall, as a metaphor,
has gone through a few restorations in its time. When it was originally
built 2000 years ago by the Qing dynasty it was a sturdy 'No Trespassing'
sign directed at neighbouring kingdoms. For centuries after that it
remained neglected and forgotten until 18th-century Europeans, infatuated
with progress and artifice, appended a 'Great' to it and sat back
to marvel at man's prehensile capacity to build Bloody Big Things.
Today it's a tourist attraction, half Wonder of the World and half
Kitschville, but to many Chinese it's just a wall. They seem to reserve
for it, and the foreigners who come to marvel, a kind of bemused tolerance.
To peasants in rural areas the Great Wall is less majestically known
as 'old frontier'.
||The majority of visitors climb the
wall at Badaling, along with the tourist packs, the touts, and the
sellers of reclining buddhas with lightbulbs in their mouths. If you
want to experience the wall far from this madding crowd, you'd do
better to travel a little farther afield and take a walk on the wilder
side of the Huanghua section, 60km (35mi) north of Beijing. It's a
classic and well-preserved example of Ming defence with high and wide
ramparts, intact parapets and sturdy beacon towers.