China’s most significant historic defence against invading forces has been breached by two workers looking for an easy shortcut.
Authorities in the People’s Republic of China arrested two construction labourers, a 38-year-old man named Zheng and a 55-year-old woman named Wang, accused of smashing through the Great Wall.
Pictures released by the government of Youyu County, several hundred kilometres west of the capital of Beijing, show a dirt road cut through a dilapidated section of the barrier.
The section in question is thought to lie at the western extremity of the wall in Shanxi province.
Parts of this section are thought to have been constructed as much as 2,000 years ago, though they remain some distance from the restored areas of the United Nations protected heritage site frequented by tourists.
Reports state that Zheng and Wang carved the route because they were looking for a shorter route to facilitate construction work they were doing in nearby towns.
They are understood to remain in custody, with further legal action pending.
Begun sometime during the 7th century BC with its best-known sections completed during the Ming dynasty, which lasted between 1368 and 1644, The Great Wall is one of China’s most iconic and treasured historic landmarks.
It failed, however, to prevent the Ming dynasty being toppled by invading Manchu tribespeople from the north, who having conquered the wall went on to take over the empire as the Qing dynasty.
In the years that followed, the wall largely well into disrepair, with much of its original stonework pilfered by local villagers.
Interest in the wall as a symbol of patriotism and resistance to outside pressure was revived by China’s communist government in the mid-20th century.
The Great Wall has previously made headlines for the hazards its stony surfaces pose to winter tourists, with footage circulating of dozens of sightseers slipping and clinging to the handrails as they attempt to cross the ice-covered paving.
Online rental service Airbnb has also offered eco-home lodging along the wall in the past, as part of an initiative to promote sustainable tourism in China.
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