Changing China

Giant on the move

A moment away from the Olympic mayhem

August 7, 2008

The Great Wall

Mao Zedong once said, “He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man.”

Tell me about it.

After experiencing the mayhem of the Olympic torch relay on Thursday, there was time to treasure a moment of pure tranquility. The calf-wrenching walk up a one-in-two incline is worth every step. Up at the top of the wall you feel like some minuscule character in the background of a Chinese painting.

Mist rises over the mountains. The only sound is crickets chirruping in the trees. The wall stretches over the horizon and disappears into the distance. Pure magic.

“Such a great people with such a great wall will surely have a great future,” said Richard M. Nixon, the president who helped to break down barriers between East and West. He wasn’t wrong there.

But I hate to disappoint you by destroying one myth. You cannot see The Great Wall with the naked eye from the moon. China’s first astronaut, Yang Liwei, knocked that on the head in 2003 when failing to spot the barrier from space. The legend has now been taken out of all Chinese school textbooks.

The Great Wall up at Badaling is mercifully free of graffiti but stern warnings are issued at the start of the trek with a notice declaring, “No carrying the problem thing on The Great Wall.”

In case you are tempted, the following are prohibited:

  • Drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis
  • Virulent, caustic or radioactive materials
  • Crossbows, daggers and educational guns

PHOTO: Torchbearers take part in the 2008 Beijing Olympic torch relay at the Badaling section of the Great Wall on the outskirts of Beijing, August 7, 2008. REUTERS/Joe Chan


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