Airbnb has axed a competition which offered a chance to stay overnight on the Great Wall of China.

The holiday rentals site had worked with historians and designers in Beijing to turn one of the landmark's ancient watch towers into a unique crash pad, complete with a master bedroom and bathroom.

Anybody wanting to stay at the wall had to write an essay on why it is "more important now than ever to break down barriers between cultures" and "how you want to build new connections". But the contest sparked controversy in China, which led to the competition being scrapped.

Airbnb worked with historians and designers in Beijing to turn one of the Wall's ancient watch towers into a homestay. Photo / Supplied
Airbnb worked with historians and designers in Beijing to turn one of the Wall's ancient watch towers into a homestay. Photo / Supplied

News of the "Night At The Great Wall" contest lit up Chinese social media, with critics calling it a publicity stunt that lacked respect for the ancient monument.

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"No matter how they dress it up, this doesn't hide the fact that this contest is by a private company that will undeniably cause damage to an ancient artifact," one person wrote on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.

Officials from the Yanqing district - home to the section of the Great Wall that was to host the sleepover - said in a statement that they had not been notified about the event and that no approval was given.

Airbnb confirmed that the competition was being cancelled due to the feedback it had received about the contest.

The hotel room featured a cosy seating area with a window looking out over the Yanquing countryside. Photo / Supplied
The hotel room featured a cosy seating area with a window looking out over the Yanquing countryside. Photo / Supplied

It said in a statement: 'We were excited to promote the Great Wall and Chinese cultural heritage with our Night At The Great Wall and while there was an agreement in place that was the basis for the announcement of this event, we deeply respect the feedback we have received.

"We have made the decision to not move forward with this event and instead we are working on a range of other experiences and initiatives that showcase China as a destination and highlight how people-to-people travel can drive human connections.

"One of the goals of our Night At The Great Wall was to highlight how everyone can play a part in honouring and preserving this incredible piece of world history. We partnered with experts to help educate people about the Wall's heritage and raise awareness of protection and preservation efforts.

Yanqing officials said they had not given approval for Airbnb's Great Wall event. Photo / Supplied
Yanqing officials said they had not given approval for Airbnb's Great Wall event. Photo / Supplied

"If you entered the contest, we're very sorry for any disappointment caused and we will be in touch in the future about other ways you can explore and discover amazing experiences in China."

Known as one of the greatest architectural feats in human history, the Great Wall was built as a border to protect Chinese states against raids thousands of years ago.

It is estimated to measure between 9000 and 21,000km, depending on which sections are included.

The best known section today is the Ming Wall, constructed from 1368 to 1644.

The fortress covers approximately 8850km from the Jiayu Pass in Gansu province and the Shanhai Pass in Hebei province.

Today, the Great Wall is widely considered to be one of the seven wonders of the modern world, attracting visitors from all over the globe.

The Great Wall attracts visitors from all over the globe, especially from within China. Photo / VCG, Getty
The Great Wall attracts visitors from all over the globe, especially from within China. Photo / VCG, Getty