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Protect Great Wall of China

2009-09-11 07:45 BJT

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The Great Wall of China, which dates back to the 8th century BC, was built to stand as a guardian against invaders. But here in the 21st century, the Wall is under siege by a new onslaught of countless tourists and the environment. Now, in the spirit of those who built the ancient wall, a group of local villagers are collaborating with some American enthusiasts to become the Wall's guardians.

Snaking across the landscape, this ribbon of stone is one of the world's most iconic landmarks.

The Great Wall, which was built by several dynasties over the past two millenniums, may have helped to stave off Northern invaders, but it is now struggling to hold out against two serious threats the millions of tourists that visit each year, and centuries of battering by harsh weather.

Now one community, living in the village of Mutianyu, near Beijing, is trying to encourage responsible tourism.

Fifty-five year-old Li Fengquan grew up in the village at the foot of the Great Wall.

Li says he takes enormous pride in the monument, but he feels sad when someone destroys or sprays graffiti on it.

And he is not alone. Now, the government has enacted national regulations to protect the Wall. Vandals face stiff fines and possible criminal penalties.

Li says his life changed in 1990 when he tried to sell American tourist, Jim Spear a T-shirt.

But instead of buying the T-shirt, Spear began his lifelong project to preserve the Wall.

Li showed Spear an abandoned school in Mutianyu village. From this old school, Spear began to build a new sustainable tourism project in the village, a hotel and restaurant, known as the Schoolhouse.

Jin Spear, owner of the schoolhouse said, "Our aim is to come here and encourage people to enjoy the great wall as it is without taking it away or destroying it."

Li now works for Spear in the vegetable garden growing organic produce for the hotel and restaurant.

Villagers feel more connected with the wider world through Spear's passion for the Schoolhouse, and the preservation of the Wall.

This sense of global ownership is backed up by a well known guardian - the president of the Association of the Great Wall, Luo Zhewen.

Luo Zhewen, president of Association of the Great Wall, said, "Cultural relics belong to all mankind. They don't only belong to China, but also to foreigners, who have a responsibility to protect them. Foreigners are entitled to find better ways to protect and promote the monument."

People in both China and America are working together to preserve the Great Wall for future generations to enjoy.

Editor: Zhao Yanchen | Source: CCTV.com