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Wild Wall

Wild Wall, abbreviated and common form of wilderness Wall, being wilderness sections of the Great Wall of China (as opposed to rebuilt tourist sections). WildWall is characterised by its overgrown ramparts, covered with a layer of earth colonised by grasses, bushes and sometimes trees, and featuring fabric and masonry that has been subject to various degrees of fracturing and weathering, i.e. in a state of dereliction. Term originates from British geographer and Great Wall studies researcher William Lindesay O.B.E.; first coined in 1994. Translated directed into Chinese as “Ye Chang Cheng" (野长城).

"...we unanimously declared it the most impressive landmark we had ever seen..."

Frederick G. Clapp, Along and Across the Great Wall of China, 1920.


Wild Wall

After my journey ‘Alone on the Great Wall’ in 1987, my second ‘semester’ at the Wall began in the early 1990s as Wu Qi and I made our home in Beijing to work at China Daily. Enabling my trips to the Wall was a Giant bicycle. I could ride the 100 kms or so from the city to the Wall in five or six hours. Weekend after weekend, in spring, summer and autumn, I explored countless enclaves of supreme Wall antiquity that encircled the city’s northern suburbs. 


One Monday morning in mid 1994, colleagues chatted in the China Daily newsroom about what they’d been doing over the weekend.  My “I went to the Wall” prompted an interesting response. “We Beijingers avoid the Great Wall unless we have to take our out-of-town relatives or friends — it’s so touristy and boring,” said a reporter. 


A few days later I took photographs of my most recent Wall exploration into the office. Colleagues gathered around, curios about what they were seeing. “It’s covered with bushes” said one. “It’s all broken down and there’s nobody there,” said another. I explained that the vast majority of the Great Wall had been claimed by nature since its operational abandonment in 1644, and that explained why, some 350 years later, it stood or lay as ruins, overgrown. “It’s wilderness Wall” I pronounced,. Then I verbally edited the description. “It’s Wild Wall”.


Although I didn’t quite realise at the time, I’d coined a new, perfectly appropriate and much-needed term which recognises,  describes and explains a specific period of the Great Wall’s post-operational history -- its claiming by nature. Moreover, the term WildWall contains embedded questions and challenges faced by all things wild, and all wilderness areas, in the modern world: How can it remain wild and retain nature’s and history’s authenticity? How can it resist the economic pressures of dollar-driven developers who want to rebuild it, build roads to it, cablecars up to it, resorts and frivolities below and beside it? My realisation of WildWall, invention of the term and its wide acceptance has invoked the true beginning of Great Wall conservation.   


Within a year or so I’d defined Wild Wall on my first website. Within a few more years it had entered the language of guide books, and certainly by the late 1990s it was even translated directly into Chinese as ye chang cheng ( 野长城 ). Previously the Chinese terms had been ‘Undeveloped Great Wall‘, and if that wasn’t clumsy enough, another was ‘Disabled Great Wall’. Today the term has firmly entered the vocabulary of Great Wall studies and stands as one of three important terms that I have contributed to the subject.

NB: The words 'wild wall', 'wilderness wall', 'Wild Wall' or 'WildWall' can be used as desriptive terms, but emphatically cannot be used as commerical , business or brand names by anyone but William Lindesay, their inventor . See copyrights and registered user warnings below!


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