An Englishman's Lasting Bond with the Great Wall | Great Wall Anthology
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An Englishman's Lasting Bond with the Great Wall


Text and photographs courtesy of Wu Qi


Attracted by their irresistible charm, William Lindesay works hard to protect the wild sections of the Great Wall.


April 1998: William Lindesay launched the first Great Wall Cleanup Campaign.


In 1999, William Lindesay organized a campaign named Miniature United Nations. Volunteers recruited by 35 foreign embassies participated in the campaign.


The future belongs to today's children. By taking part in public welfare campaigns, the children strengthen their awareness of environmental protection.


Some of the garbage has volunteers going deep into the bushes.


William Lindesay (left) and a volunteer put up a slogan board.


William Lindesay (right) and an environmental protection worker.


On China's National Day in 1998, William Lindesay led 120 volunteers to pick up garbage on the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall. During the campaign, 15 garbage bins were donated to the group.

An enthusiast concerned about the protection of the Great Wall, William Lindesay from Britain is the director-general of the International Friends of the Great Wall. Since 1998, he has organized many campaigns aiming to protect the sections of the Great Wall in the wilderness just outside Beijing. His efforts and deeds won him the Friendship Prize for Foreign Experts from the State Council of China in 1998. And the Xinhua News Agency has praised him as "the most successful foreigner in exploring the Great Wall."

In 1969, when an astronaut looked down on the earth from outer space, he clearly saw a winding, artificial structure on the planet below. What he saw was the Great Wall of China. The same year, 11-year-old William Lindesay found the Great Wall on the map for the first time. From then on, he dreamed of visiting this wonderful, ancient wall.

His dream came true in 1987, when he traveled 2,470 kilometers on foot along a section of the Great Wall constructed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The journey added an unforgettable memory to his life. Majoring in geography and geology, William Lindesay graduated from the University of Liverpool. As a researcher of geography, he has deepened his understanding of the field through his treks along the Great Wall.

Snaking along 06,700 kilometers of mountaintops, the Ming Dynasty Great Wall was a complex system of border defenses. It is now regarded as the most magnificent man-made wonder of the world; and its viewers are in awe when they see the heavy and bulky building materials that were used to build the wall in such precipitous places.

William Lindesay, however, sees the Great Wall as "an open-air museum without a curator." As a geologist, he thinks that the charm of the Great Wall not only comes from each of its bricks and stones but also from its surrounding natural landscapes. In other words, the wall's surroundings are as important as the wall itself. The Ming Dynasty Great Wall is the world's most labor-intensive and time-consuming construction project in history, requiring a vast amount of resources. It is also the world's largest single cultural relic.

Unfortunately, irresponsible tourists leave litter and graffiti on the wall, while local residents construct illegal iron or wooden ladders and prop them up against the side of the wall. Real estate developers, on the other hand, have built villas beside the ancient structure. In William Lindesay's opinion, all of these factors have contributed to damaging the wall. Aware of these threats and their growing severity, Lindesay has committed himself to the protection of the Great Wall, especially its surroundings. In April 1998, he launched the first Great Wall Cleanup Campaign, which aroused public awareness of the need to protect the Great Wall. Since 1998, he has organized many similar activities. In November 2000, William Lindesay and the Beijing Bureau for Cultural Relics jointly submitted an application to the US-based World Monuments Fund (WMF) to have the wild sections of the Great Wall in the Beijing area listed on the Fund's "2002 List of the World's Most 101 Endangered Sites." On October 11, 2001, the WMF published its 2002 list, which included the "Cultural Landscape of the Great Wall, Beijing."

In order to have more people join the campaign to protect the Great Wall, Lindesay registered a non-profit organization named the International Friends of the Great Wall. The organization has joined hands with the Beijing Bureau for Cultural Relics and the Beijing Office of UNESCO to preserve the primitive, natural, and cultural landscapes of the Great Wall.

During the 15 years he has lived in China, William Lindesay has spent over 500 days and nights on the Great Wall, leaving his footprints on some 2,500 kilometers of wall. A lasting bond between him and the ancient monument has been firmly established.

Log on to http://www.friendsofgreatwall.org for more information about the International Friends of the Great Wall.