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Mules employed to help restore the Great Wall

VISITORS to the Great Wall could have the chance to see a scene straight out of history over the next two months - mule drivers carrying building materials to the ancient monument.

Cultural heritage authorities have commissioned a team of seven mules to transport bricks and lime to rebuild a section of the wall at Badaling, northwest of Beijing, that has mostly collapsed or been covered by grass.

Chen Zhimin, a farmer from Yezhao Village in Chengde City, Hebei Province, said on Tuesday that his mule team would carry 420 tons of materials in the next 60 days to rebuild a 10-kilometer section of the 600-year-old wall.

"The steep mountain terrain is inaccessible to vehicles, but it's an easy task for mules," said the 47-year-old, who will drive the mule team with six fellow villagers.

Chen and his mules set off at 7am each day and finish work at 6pm. "Every mule has to carry 250 kilograms each time, and every day the mule team makes four 30km return journeys," said Chen.

However, sometimes the farmers have to carry the bricks themselves because some sections are too rugged even for the mules.

"The paths are extremely narrow and covered by thorns and sometimes we use sickles to clear the way," said Chen.

He and fellow villagers will each be paid 50 yuan (US$7.35) a day by the Chengde city culture heritage bureau.

In April, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage and the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping announced the length of the Great Wall dating from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) was 885.1 kilometers. The heritage administration ordered its complete restoration.


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