China now believes the Great Wall is 13,171 miles long, more than twice the previous estimation. The new measure elicits skepticism amid territorial disputes.
A retired Chinese cultural heritage official, Zhang Lingmian, said he found what “had to be part of the Great Wall of China” in Haizigou, north of Beijing.
Zhang Lingmian was collecting walnuts in the countryside north of Beijing last autumn when a friend from a nearby village mentioned a mysterious structure in the mountains that had stumped locals.
The retired cultural heritage official and his friend scampered uphill for two hours, whacking their way through the brambles after the path ran out. At the top of a 2,700-foot-high ridge, they reached a long trail of haphazardly placed rocks.
Zhang says he immediately recognized what villagers called “the strange stones.”
“I knew right away it had to be part of the Great Wall of China,” Zhang recalled on a recent hike to show off his discovery, about 50 miles from central Beijing.
Although most of the rocks had tumbled down, a few piles reached up to Zhang’s chest. “The walls just had to be high enough to keep the barbarians from crossing with their horses,” explained Zhang, who says he has been studying the wall for 33 years.
The Great Wall of China may be one of the most recognizable structures on Earth, but it is still in the process of revealing new layers of itself — to cries of disbelief and fury in some quarters. At a time when Beijing is asserting its territorial borders in the South China Sea, the discoveries are not universally applauded.
In early June, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage announced that it now believes the Great Wall is a stunning 13,171 miles long, if you put all of the discovered portions end to end. That’s more than half the circumference of the globe, four times the span of the United States coast to coast and nearly 2 1/2 times the estimated length in a preliminary report released in 2009, two years into a project that saw the Chinese measure it for the first time.
Los Angeles Times