Profile: Decades-long devotion to guarding Great Wall-Xinhua

Profile: Decades-long devotion to guarding Great Wall

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-07-05 20:09:15

BEIJING, July 5 (Xinhua) -- Even at 80, Mei Jingtian continues his patrol in the Shixiaguan section of the Great Wall. With over four decades of experience under his belt, he skillfully taps the grass along the way with a wooden stick, alerting wild animals to ensure his safety.

Mei lives in Shixia Village nestled near the Shixiaguan section of the Great Wall, an 8.6-km stretch located in the suburban Yanqing District of Beijing, with its oldest part dating back to the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-557).

Shixia Village residents have a deep affection for the Great Wall. Mei remembers the days when he ran and played hide-and-seek with his friends on the imposing wall as a child.

However, in 1979, when he returned to Shixia after working outside the village for years, he was stunned by the massive destruction of the ancient wall. "Some locals even took bricks from the wall to build their houses," Mei recalled.

To protect the great wonder, Mei volunteered as a Great Wall guardian, patrolling 20 km daily to dissuade people from taking bricks, scribbling on the wall or dropping litter.

"My family worried that it would be dangerous to hike into the mountain by myself, so I always took a wooden stick with me to drive the wild animals away," Mei said.

In 1984, a Great Wall protection campaign was launched in Beijing and was quickly echoed by villagers in Shixia. Realizing the significance of heritage protection, more and more villagers returned the bricks and joined Mei's patrol.

In 2006, Mei, then head of the village, led the establishment of a local volunteer Great Wall protection association, and nearly 80 out of over 100 residents initially joined as Great Wall guardians.

Inspired by Mei, Liu Hongyan, Mei's niece, followed Mei's footsteps in Great Wall protection and officially became a Great Wall guardian in 2019.

"When I was a child, my uncle always told me his patrolling stories and the history of the Great Wall," Liu said. "It is my mission and responsibility to protect the cultural heritage."

China has continued to step up its efforts in Great Wall protection. From 2015 to 2023, China approved a total of 289 Great Wall protection and maintenance projects, and more than 6,800 guardians nationwide were dedicated to protection work.

Today, more advanced technologies have been adopted for Great Wall protection. At the Badaling scenic area, which boasts one of the most popular sections of the Great Wall, the drone relics patrol platform and intelligent scenic area management platform play vital roles in this effort.

According to Liu Manli, deputy director of the Yanqing cultural heritage bureau, the two platforms will be further upgraded in resource sharing, process coordination and data analysis.

The Shixiaguan section of the Great Wall has not yet been open to the public. "It is my biggest wish to see the heritage well-preserved and available for visit, drawing more people to join us to protect the Great Wall," Mei said.