Guard­ing the Great Wall

Vol­un­teer pa­trol­man has spent more than four decades pre­serv­ing and pro­tect­ing China’s fa­mous relic.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - People - By ZHANG YU

is a weekly col­umn which in­tro­duces Malaysi­abased ev­ery­day folk. If you have any per­son to rec­om­mend, e-mail us at star2@thes­tar.com.my. FOR more than four decades, Liu Zonglin has sought to pro­tect a sec­tion of the Great Wall near his home in Chengde, North China’s He­bei province.

The 72-year-old farmer has lived in Yushudi vil­lage, about 150km north­east of Beijing, his whole life.

Near the vil­lage sits a sec­tion of the wall built dur­ing the Ming Dy­nasty (1368-1644), but the 10 tow­ers and one gate along the 9.88km stretch have be­come badly dam­aged over time.

“I’ve lived by the Great Wall my whole life, I feel like it’s my re­spon­si­bil­ity to take care of it,” said Liu.

As a child, he would climb the tow­ers with his friends – either for fun or to col­lect fire­wood for his par­ents.

“It’s not the same any­more,” he ex­plained. “Back in 1970s, we didn’t un­der­stand the his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance of the Great Wall.”

Vil­lagers would of­ten re­move stones from the wall to build their houses, even af­ter it was listed as a World Her­itage Site by Unesco in 1987.

To pre­vent such de­struc­tive be­hav­ior, Liu be­gan car­ry­ing out reg­u­lar checks on the wall and re­ported any dam­age he spot­ted to lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

He also picked up trash and re­moved any weeds he saw grow­ing through the an­cient stonework.

“I tried my best to tell peo­ple that we should be pro­tect­ing the Great Wall rather than de­stroy­ing it,” Liu said, ad­ding that his ac­tions some­times drew the ire of his fel­low vil­lagers, who called him bor­ing and of­fi­cious.

“I don’t care, as long as it stops them van­dal­is­ing the pre­cious cul­tural her­itage.”

Liu’s own wife has even spo­ken out against him, say­ing he should stop wast­ing his time and fo­cus more on cul­ti­vat­ing their land and feed­ing their cat­tle.

“I don’t lis­ten to her, be­cause I am stub­born,” he said, proudly.

Over time, his ef­forts and per­sis­tence ap­pear to have paid off.

Peo­ple stopped dam­ag­ing the Great Wall and five more pro­tec­tors have been re­cruited by the depart­ment for cul­tural her­itage pro­tec­tion of Chengde, where his vil­lage is lo­cated.

In 2013, Liu’s sec­tion was des­ig­nated as one of the ma­jor sites pro­tected at na­tional level.

It is now vis­ited by many tourists from Beijing as it has never been re­paired or re­built and still re­tains its orig­i­nal look, ac­cord­ing to Liu.

Grad­u­ally, more peo­ple are get­ting to know of the sec­tion, but he wants more.

“I have a dream that this part can be re­stored to its former glory in the fu­ture,” mused Liu.

Un­like many well-main­tained parts of the wall, such as Badal­ing in Beijing, Shan­haiguan in Qin­huang­dao and Jin­shan­ling in Chengde, the sec­tion in Yushudi is badly dam­aged, with only two of its tow­ers in good con­di­tion.

But Liu’s dream may soon come true.

Ac­cord­ing to the Relics Bu­reau of Chengde, the city has sub­mit­ted an ap­pli­ca­tion for re­pair­ing the sec­tion to the na­tion’s top gov­ern­ment or­gan for the preser­va­tion of cul­tural relics – the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cul­tural Her­itage.

As of June last year, there were 3,400 pro­tec­tors like Liu scat­tered across 404 coun­ties along the 21,000km of the Great Wall, ac­cord­ing to the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cul­tural Her­itage.

Most of them are vil­lagers who are fa­mil­iar with lo­cal ge­o­graph­i­cal con­di­tions and can ef­fi­ciently pa­trol their des­ig­nated sec­tion, said an of­fi­cial at the Relics Bu­reau of Chengde, sur­named Du.

About a year ago, the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cul­tural Her­itage started to is­sue of­fi­cial work cards to Great Wall pro­tec­tors, a move that shows the im­por­tance the coun­try is putting on pre­serv­ing cul­tural her­itage.

“With their reg­u­lar pa­trols, the pro­tec­tors are ir­re­place­able in pro­tect­ing it,” said Gu Yu­cai, deputy di­rec­tor of the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cul­tural Her­itage. – China Daily/ Asia News Net­work

A part of the wall has been badly dam­aged over time due to nat­u­ral and hu­man fac­tors.

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