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Villagers recruited to protect Beijing section of Great Wall

By XIN WEN | China Daily | Updated: 2019-06-12 07:42

Guardians of the Great Wall patrol its Badaling section in Beijing on Saturday. A team of 463 has been recruited to monitor and protect the Beijing sections of the Great Wall. WU YIBIN/FOR CHINA DAILY

A team of 463 guardians has been recruited to monitor and help protect the Beijing section of the Great Wall, the city's cultural heritage authority said on Saturday.

The guardians of the UNESCO World Heritage Site are villagers living along the wall. They conduct regular safety inspections of key wall sections and upload photos and descriptions of its condition via a phone app.

Before the recruitment of the guardians, there was cause for concern about the protection of the Great Wall, said Yu Haikuan, deputy director of the heritage protection bureau in Beijing's Yanqing district. "Most of the wild sections of the Great Wall are in an unattended state," Yu said.

By the end of May, six suburban districts along the Great Wall had completed recruitment of 289 full-time workers and 174 part-time ones, said Ling Ming, deputy director of the Beijing Cultural Heritage Administration. Another 11 full-time workers will be recruited by 2022.

According to a survey of the Great Wall's condition by the National Cultural Heritage Administration in 2018, sections with little and poor preservation accounted for about 41 percent of the Beijing section.

Due to human destruction and natural weathering, some parts of the Great Wall are damaged or have collapsed, and are in urgent need of repair.

"The villager team assists us in some emergencies to send signals as early warning," said Yu. "At the same time, they make up for the staff shortages on cultural relics protection."

In April, 128 villagers from Yanqing district underwent training and testing from Great Wall researchers for part-time positions. Apart from learning basic knowledge, they also mastered how to inspect and report hazardous conditions via a mobile phone app.

Wang Dongzhu, a member of the team in Yanqing, said being a guardian provided a precious opportunity to protect a world heritage wonder.

Starting in May, the 45-year-old spends three to four hours each weekday inspecting a 2.5-kilometer section of the wall in Yanqing district's Xiangying village.

"Even though I'm tired sometimes because of the long distance, I enjoy cleaning the environment of the Great Wall and telling visitors of the importance of protecting a world heritage relic," he said.

Beijing is home to 520 kilometers of the Great Wall, which traverses 15 provinces and cities.

Since 2000, the city has invested nearly 470 million yuan ($68 million) in 96 projects to protect the section, according to the Beijing municipal administration of cultural heritage.

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