China’s Great Wall has been pierced by Genghis Khan, the Manchus, and now, allegedly, a couple of construction workers named Zheng and Wang who wanted a shortcut.
Authorities in China arrested the two men for smashing a path through a section of the ancient wall, a cultural icon and United Nations protected heritage site.
The area of the breach was a broken-down section far from the restored segments most Chinese and foreign tourists are familiar with.
State media showed a dirt road cut through a the wall against a rural landscape in Youyu County, hundreds of kilometers (miles) west of Beijing, and identified the suspects only by the surnames Zheng and Wang. The pair wanted a shorter route for some construction work they were doing in nearby towns, the reports said.
China places immense pride in the system of towers and connecting walls wide enough for carriages to pass that stretch approximately 8,850 kilometers (5,500 miles), built mainly during the Ming dynasty that lasted until 1644.
In that year, Manchu tribespeople from the north overcame China’s defenses and took over the empire as the Qing dynasty.
The wall was subsequently abandoned and plundered for bricks and stones by local villagers, only to be revived by the Communist government as a symbol of patriotism, mass mobilization and resistance to outside pressure.
The Youyu County government said the arrests were made after a report of the breach was received on August 24. It said the two men were in custody with further legal action pending.
In its citation of the the Great Wall, UNESCO described it as reflecting the “collision and exchanges between agricultural civilizations and nomadic civilizations in ancient China.”
“It provides significant physical evidence of the far-sighted political strategic thinking and mighty military and national defence forces of central empires in ancient China, and is an outstanding example of the superb military architecture, technology and art of ancient China,” the citation says.