Revitalizing the ancient Great Wall

By Wu Jie (Global Times) 14:26, May 22, 2024

Photo: Li Hao/GT

Photo: Li Hao/GT

The residents of a suburban village in Beijing were overjoyed to receive a reply letter from Chinese President Xi Jinping on May 17 acknowledging their efforts to protect the Great Wall and encouraging them to pass on this heritage to future generations.

In his response to a recent letter from residents living in Shixia village, Badaling township in Beijing's Yanqing district reporting their work in protecting the Great Wall, President Xi said he was pleased to learn that the villagers had taken the initiative over the years to protect the Great Wall, inherit Great Wall culture, and rely on its resources on their way to prosperity.

The Great Wall is a representative symbol of the Chinese nation and an important symbol of Chinese civilization, Xi said. "It is our common responsibility to protect and pass on this historical and cultural heritage."

Xi said he hopes that the villagers will continue protecting the Great Wall as they protect their homes, carry forward Great Wall culture and tell stories about the Great Wall well.

Li Qinghua, Party secretary of Badaling Township, told the Global Times that he felt honored to receive the letter from President Xi and was greatly encouraged by his words.

"We also feel a strong sense of responsibility and political mission. As the protection and inheritance of the Great Wall is a tradition of our Chinese nation, for those of us who were born and grew up at the foot of the Great Wall, it is also our undeniable responsibility to carry on this tradition," said Li.

"We will remain committed to our efforts in protecting the Great Wall and pass on this time-honored asset to future generations while helping more people understand the culture of the Great Wall," Li Handong, Party secretary of Shixia Village, said.

On the 30th anniversary of an initiative to protect China's largest cultural heritage, the villagers' letter is a renewed effort to carry on their commitment to protecting the Great Wall as they would protect their homes, which also set the villagers on the path to prosperity through years of tourism development.

Possessing a length of the wall stretching over a distance of 179.2 kilometers, the Yanqing district boasts the longest section of the Great Wall with the most magnificent view in Beijing, according to the People's Government of Yanqing. It includes the world-renowned tourist attraction and UNESCO World Heritage site, the Badaling section of the Great Wall, and many untapped stone and brick sections that continue to thrive thanks to constant maintenance and preservation.

By the end of 2023, Yanqing had carried out more than 50 Great Wall emergency protection projects, repairing 19 castles, 22,247.96 meters of wall, 106 platforms, and 10 beacon towers. The emergency repair rate of the brick and stone sections of the Great Wall has reached 88 percent. The plan for the next three years is to repair 3,700 meters of key sections of the Great Wall and five platforms, to ensure that the entire brick and stone sections of the Great Wall are free of danger and achieve a 100 percent rate for handling other Great Wall dangers, according to local authorities.

Liu Manli, vice director of the Yanqing District Cultural Heritage Bureau, said that the protection of the Great Wall is the cornerstone of the inheritance and promotion of Great Wall culture.

"Currently, in the Yanqing District, emergency repairs and maintenance have covered over 20 kilometers of the Great Wall with a total investment of 360 million yuan ($50.77 million)," Liu said.

"By utilizing multiple cutting-edge technologies, we are systematically advancing the protection of the Great Wall, setting a new benchmark for the conservation of Great Wall heritage. In terms of digital technology applications, we have completed a three-dimensional model of the entire Great Wall in the region, achieving a precision of up to two centimeters. We have implemented regular unmanned aerial drone patrols of the Great Wall and online diagnosis and treatment of dangers to the Great Wall, and pioneering digital protection of the Great Wall in China," Liu noted.

A Great Wall protection team was established in 2019. Currently, a total of 20 team members in Badaling township take turns to patrol the untapped sections of the man-made defensive structure built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

"Our daily patrols involve monitoring potential risks, cleaning garbage, recording 'ailments' along the wall and advising tourists against actions that may pose a risk to the Great Wall," Mei Lanfen, one member of the team, told the Global Times after navigating a dirt path littered with thorny bushes to the top of a tower in Shixia village.

For generations, local villagers in Shixia have voluntarily engaged in the protection of the Great Wall.

"I've developed a profound affection for the Great Wall since my childhood. It has become a habit for our villagers to clean up trash and persuade tourists not to climb the unopened sections," said 71-year-old villager Gu Tongfu.

The villagers have also reaped rewards for their efforts as the development of the Great Wall tourism industry, represented by branded homestays, has driven local economic growth, leading to a significant increase in villager income.

In the past, villagers could only rely on selling corn and local specialties to earn a meager income. Now, with tourism, homestays, and catering, the village hosts over 40,000 tourists each year. The cultural resources at the Great Wall have paved the way for villagers to lead a better life, according to Li Handong.

Li Qinghua said that the next step is to transform the Great Wall resources into concrete measures for rural revitalization.

"We plan to create a sweeping Great Wall scenic area that combines the Badaling section with the neighboring sections, improve transportation facilities and establish new climbing and riding trails," said Li Handong.

Hou Lin, deputy director of the Yanqing District Bureau of Culture and Tourism, said that Yanqing will continuously explore the cultural resources of the Great Wall, promote and inherit the culture of the Great Wall and create unique cultural and tourism products, burnishing the reputation of the Badaling Great Wall as a world-class icon.

"We will continue to hold cultural events themed around the Great Wall, such as the ongoing Beijing Great Wall Concert and Great Wall Cultural Festival, to promote the profound history and cultural heritage of the Great Wall," said Hou.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


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