The Great Wall of China now has a designated graffiti area
China’s Great Wall has a problem: It’s facing an epidemic of tourists etching graffiti into the stone.
Visiting ancient man-made tourist attractions like the Great Wall can be awe-inspiring. Apparently facing the massive span of history is enough to inspire some idiots to try to overcome their feeling of helpless mortality by etching “John wuz here” into the wall. (The largest number of etchings is in English.)
The problem has grown so widespread that China is now taking steps to try to contain it. Taking an if-you-can’t-beat-em-join-em approach, authorities are creating a designated graffiti area on the wall.
The Mutianyu section of the wall lies 40 miles east of Beijing. One of the best-preserved parts of the Wall with a fully intact fighting tower for visitors to climb, it’s a popular tourist destination. It’s also been one of the leading areas where graffiti has proliferated. China News Service announced Sunday that officials are creating the designated graffiti area at Mutianyu. They’re also considering installing an electronic touchscreen “graffiti wall” in the future to further encourage people to draw there instead of on the stone.
It’s a nice idea, but both the designated graffiti area and the electronic touchscreen seem to miss the whole existential point of etching your name into the Great Wall. Projecting yourself onto some piece of history that will be around thousands of years after you and all memory of you vanish is a pretty powerful impulse; it’s probably a spontaneous one rather than something for which you plan an afternoon trip to the Great Graffiti Wall. And scribbling some transient electronic finger-paint defeats the whole point of permanence.
No, if China really wants to crack down on graffiti they may have to resort to what Rudy Giuliani promised to do to NYC taggers in a 1997 SNL skit—stencil the word “sucks” after every name.
H/t and image: NPR