The People’s Republic of China is facing worldwide indignation after the results of a ten-year conservation project on the Great Wall were unveiled today, revealing that its entire 4,000 mile length had been covered in a mock-Tudor facade. Onlookers gasped as dustsheets were removed from the famous structure, recently listed as one of the ‘new’ wonders of the world, exposing the brand-new black and white half-timber effect that now covers the stonework from Shanhaiguan to Lop Nur.
Archaeological and architectural groups across the globe have united in condemning this ‘tacky, god-awful’ facelift, with Professor David Ansel-Collins, head of UNESO’s Asia-Pacific division, leading the outcry. ‘We should have guessed the Chinese were up to something when the wholesale price of oakleaf exterior cladding planks skyrocketed last year,’ he told reporters.
Facing a fierce backlash, the Chinese government is now on the defensive, refusing to give details of the next step in their ‘conservationary improvement’ scheme; although Ansel-Collins is eyeing the upswing in the lawn turf and privet hedge markets in recent months with suspicion. ‘This is China’s greatest man-made endeavour, not some semi-detached in Surbiton. What next, terracotta gnomes?’
Cai Wu, China’s minister of culture, is naturally supportive of the project, citing the right of any rapidly-modernising country to update its image. ‘Why can’t we show everyone that we’re going up in the world? It’s jealousy, pure and simple,’ he told party officials at a carefully choreographed press conference. ‘Honestly, you try to make the place look nice and all you get is hassle. What about those scruffy Tibetans across the way? No-one complains about them; not to mention the Uyghurs down the road, with their all-night parties, noisy calls to prayer and disruptive protests – they’re lowering the tone of the whole bloody neighbourhood.’
But cultural historians were unmoved by China’s reasoning. ‘This is the greatest blow to Asia’s cultural heritage since the destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas or the pebble dashing of the Taj Mahal.’
14 Sep 2009