Beijing village rallies to protect Great Wall, leveraging it for cultural tourism

(People's Daily Online) 15:08, May 21, 2024

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for efforts to let more people know about the Great Wall and engage more people in its protection to pass on the ancestors' precious heritage to future generations in a reply letter to residents of Shixia village in Badaling township, Yanqing district, Beijing on May 14.

Xi said he was pleased to learn that the villagers had taken the initiative over the years to protect the Great Wall, inherit its culture, and rely on its resources on their way to prosperity.

"We will continue our efforts to let more people know about the Great Wall and engage more people in its protection to pass on our ancestors' precious heritage to future generations," said Li Handong, Party branch secretary of Shixia village.

A coffee shop in Shixia village, Badaling township, Yanqing district, Beijing. (Photo/Pan Zhiwang)

Liu Hongyan, a Shixia native, has been one of the first six full-time protectors of the village's Shixia Great Wall section since May 2019, inspired by her uncle Mei Jingtian, who began protecting it in 1980 by clearing rubbish and reminding tourists to be mindful.

Over the years, Liu has patrolled the section at least five times per week, taking 20,000 to 30,000 steps daily.

Now, 80-year-old Mei still patrols with Liu every few days. Under his guidance, Shixia established a Great Wall protection volunteer team.

"Aside from the elderly and children, almost all villagers have participated in protecting the Great Wall," said Gu Shumei, a village official and team leader.

"Safeguarding the Great Wall has become as habitual as protecting our own homes," Liu said.

To her delight, inconsiderate conduct like climbing wild sections, graffiti and littering have decreased, with some visitors voluntarily picking up litter.

"Built along the Great Wall, our village has thrived on it. We need to promote and carry forward its culture," Li said.

Liu Hongyan (L) explains Great Wall protection knowledge to a visitor. (Photo courtesy of the interviewee)

In recent years, Li has collected oral stories and compiled information about scenic spots along the Shixia Great Wall section. He also participated in a village book on the Great Wall. Additionally, the village collaborated with Yanqing's cultural center to invite experts for lectures.

Since the village museum's establishment in 2018, it has become a regular training venue for residents and is gradually attracting tourists.

"We've also launched interactive experience programs incorporating Great Wall elements like cloth art, paper cutting and feather painting," said Wei Xiaoyun, who oversees the museum.

According to Liu, Great Wall protection and cultural inheritance are mutually reinforcing. While patrolling, she also volunteers as a guide, sharing historical stories and legends about the Shixia section.

Liu has never missed Great Wall protector training classes. "Only by truly mastering the skills can we tell the stories well," she said.

An intangible cultural heritage experience activity in Shixia village, Badaling township, Yanqing district, Beijing. (Photo/Pan Zhiwang)

"We need to promote inheriting Great Wall culture among children," said Mei, who still wants to contribute. In recent years, he has held seminars and exchanges with teachers and students from several schools, sharing stories, promoting knowledge and raising protection awareness.

Shixia village is taking advantage of its natural environment and all the cultural richness surrounding the Great Wall. The village is working on developing agriculture, forestry, and tourism, with a particular focus on bed-and-breakfast hotels.

"Our village was included in the second list of national key villages for rural tourism, with a rich culture revolving around the Great Wall, cuisine and intangible cultural heritage," Li said.

A view of the Badaling section of the Great Wall in Badaling township, Yanqing district, Beijing. (Photo/Si Da)

B&B hotels flank the main street. In 2014, He Yuling rented 18 village courtyards and turned them into B&Bs by incorporating traditional Chinese architectural elements.

"The cultural tourism industry's development has boosted villagers' confidence and enthusiasm to start businesses," Li said, adding that 11 households have built B&B hotels, and 30 villagers have found jobs in the village.

(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)


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