The Great Wall of China

Acclaimed both as the conclusive modern photographic representation of the monument, reviewed in the context of land art and conceptual photography, this visual reconstruction of the idea of the “Great Wall” is first and foremost the result of an eight-month journey from the border of North Korea to China’s remote west, across vast tracts of land officially not open to foreigners – a journey thus deemed impossible and incident-prone, entailing the daily adventure of having to negotiate obstacles of a different nature and overcome barriers both physical and mental.

The photographs cover the entire spectrum of the frontier walls built from 300 AD to 1644. The 1987–1988 survey was enlarged and supplemented with additional photographs in 1990, 1993, and 2000, as access to newly discovered sections of the Walls was granted.

The complete series of photographs stands as an unromantic, sometimes brutal confrontation with a system of defense and questions the enduring mythical and symbolic stature which it gained. China’s most famous landmark is depicted as a manifestation in stone, brick, and rammed earth of the imperial will to draw a line between things within and things beyond, of centralist control, and hence of the history of a frontier policy without which the notions and machinations propelling modern China cannot be understood.


The Great Wall of China
Thames & Hudson, London and Paris 2001 (Revised edition)
Preface by the author
Including The Wall and the Books by Jorge Luis Borges,
The Great Wall of China by Franz Kafka
and The Great Wall in History by Luo Zhewen
149 photographs
Thames & Hudson, London 1990
Introduction by the author
Including The Wall and the Books by Jorge Luis Borges
and The Great Wall in History by Luo Zhewen
159 photographs
224pp (with 1 gatefold)

Selected exhibitions

The Great Wall of China – La Grande Muraille de Chine – Die Grosse Mauer Chinas
Imperial Palace Museum, Beijing 1993
Arret sur l’Image, Château des ducs d’Epernon, Cadillac/Bordeaux 1992
Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne 1991
Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund 1990

Group exhibitions

Metamorph. 9th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, Arsenale, Venice 2004
Muri di Carta. Fotografia e paesaggio dopo le avanguardie. 45th International Art Exhibition,
La Biennale di Venezia, Padiglione Italia, Venice 1993
La Chine. Les Rencontres de la Photographie, Commanderie de Saint-Luce, Arles 1988

Selected anthologies, catalogues, and print media publications

The Great Wall of China, LIFE Magazine, 96 Shanghai, November 2013
Über das Fotografieren des sogenannten Anderen – gerade in China, in:
At Eastern Gates, Script 5, Wolfsberg, Ermatingen 2012
Schweizer Fotobücher-Swiss Photobooks / Livres de Photographie Suisse, Baden 2011
Long and winding Road. The Great Wall of China,
The Sunday Review/The Independent on Sunday, London, 16 September 2001
La Espiritualidad del vacio, Valencia 2001
Made in Switzerland. Les Collections de photographies de la Conféderation, Zürich 1997
Homage to DU, Photographers International, 15, Taipei 1994
Muri di carta. Fotografia e paesaggio dopo le avanguardie, Milano 1993
Il Tempo e la Muraglia, Area, 6, Milano 1991
Die Grossen Mauern Chinas. Eine Idee, DU, 580, Zürich, 1989
Der Puls der Erde, Das Magazin, 40, Zürich, 7.-8. Oktober 1988


»To walk the Wall’s length (or rather, follow its diverse fragments) was almost fool-hardy: for one thing, his research had thought [Schwartz] that the Great wall didn’t exist. It is a Western notion, summing up all too neatly what is in fact a messy network of all kinds of ancient structures thrown up across China.«

Parkett, 89, Zürich 2011

»One can, at least, confidently predict that Kafka would have been wholly seduced by Daniel Schwartz’s book about this epic structure.«

Jewish Chronicle, London, 25 January 2002

»The only sitter in Schwartz’s portraits is the wall.«

The Independent on Sunday, London, 16 September 2001

»Daniel Schwartz hat [die Mauer] als Grenze der Welt und der Vorstellung gelesen.«

Kunstforum, 137, Köln, Juni-August 1997

»… photographs on themes of global reappropriation and post-industrial waste. Schwartz’s photographs of the Great Wall of China petering out in the desert have major implications here.«

The Observer, London, 20 June 1993

»Eine Arbeit, die Mass genommen hat an ihrem Gegenstand.«

Tages-Anzeiger, Zürich, 28. Februar 1991

»La réussite artistique se double d’un exploit humain.«

La Tribune de Genève, Genève, 9 Février 1991

»A deeply personal adventure.«

The Peak Magazine, Hongkong, October 1990

»An image wavering between two forms, one suspended, the other a profile so improbable as to suggest a masquerade, with two barely discernible silhouettes in the coal-dark background. This finely composed picture was snapped just the right moment by Daniel Schwartz, a photographer recently returned from an exploration of China – a China we have not seen before.«

Camera International, 16, Paris, 1988