Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The world's two great walls get together - Hadrian's and the Chinese

Steel Rigg takes its place among history's roll-call of sites where international agreements have been signed. Stand by for lots more tourists
It is the obvious twinning arrangement, the one made in Heaven, unlike some of the curious pairings which flash past on welcoming signs to towns and villages in the UK.
Huddersfield's snuggle with Kostanay in Kazakhstan is always intriguing, for instance, or the fact that Wakefield has eight twins, three of them in Germany.
But who could cavil at the growing relationship between Hadrian's Wall and the Great Wall of China, especially as the benefits in terms of tourism and publicity are likely to be lopsided in our favour? There are many more of them than there are of us, and the Great Wall attracts visitors nowadays on a mammoth scale.

A few well-sited images of the Roman counterpart, which has glorious stretches on its 73 mile (120 km) meander between the Solway and Wallsend, would do wonders at Great Wall honeypots such as Badaling. That prospect has come a little nearer with a visit to Northumberland and Cumbria by the organisers of a Chinese exhibition of Great Wall photographs which opens at Central Hall, Westminster, on Thursday 2 August.

The show itself suggest the way things are going. Although entitled The Great Wall – Photographs Then and Now, it includes pictures of Housesteads Crags and Castle Nick alongside images from China covering 140 years of exploration and archaeology. Chinese photographer Zhang Baotian picked them from photographs collected by volunteers between 2001 and last year. Like both walls, the organisation of the display has been epic.