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Great Wall funding drive success marked

Project, launched 40 years ago, was outstanding achievement sparking domestic and global response, Cheng Yuezhu reports.

By Cheng Yuezhu | China Daily | Updated: 2024-07-11 06:18

Pingxingguan pass, a renovated section of the Great Wall, originally built in 1511 in Datong, Shanxi province. It was the site of a key victory for Chinese forces in the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45). [Photo by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

Four decades ago, Beijing Daily, the Beijing Evening News, the former Badaling Great Wall special zone administrative office, among other organizations, launched a campaign, under the slogan of "Love China, Restore the Great Wall".

The campaign sparked widespread efforts to preserve the Great Wall, including an outpouring of donations made by individuals and organizations from around the world. Cities along the Great Wall, such as Qinhuangdao in Hebei province, Tianjin, and Jiayuguan in Gansu province, also launched fundraising events.

On Friday, the project's 40th anniversary, an exhibition opened at the Capital Museum in Beijing that will run through to Aug 31.

It presents the trajectory of the campaign and the achievements made in the preservation of the Great Wall.

The exhibition displays around 150 artifacts, photographs and textual materials, including work briefs, registers of donations and sponsorships, as well as newspaper clippings, which piece together the project's journey across geographical and temporal boundaries.

Su Wenyang (third to the left), the initiator of the Great Wall preservation fundraising campaign, introduces items on show at the exhibition in Beijing. [Photo by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

Su Wenyang, former director of the editorial department at the Beijing Evening News, was the initiator of the project.

Working as a reporter, he saw the dilapidated state of the Great Wall, and proposed the campaign to call for public involvement in its protection and restoration, which tapped into a well of goodwill.

Upon hearing about the project, Xi Zhongxun, then member of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, and Deng Xiaoping, then director of the Central Advisory Commission of the CPC, wrote the campaign's slogan in calligraphy, which was published in the Beijing Evening News.

The campaign called for the public to make donations according to their means, and organizations and individuals making larger contributions were commemorated by having their names inscribed on monuments near the Great Wall.

According to the organizers, more than 10 million people from around China participated in the campaign, and institutions from 26 countries and regions, including Pakistan, Greece and the United States, made donations.

Until this day, monuments honoring these contributions and marking the friendly relations between China and other countries can still be found at Great Wall scenic areas.

The event celebrates the campaign's 40th anniversary, by displaying around 150 artifacts, photographs and documents. [Photo by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

"The Great Wall was built by numerous generations of people. Our generation has merely done a bit of restoration and preservation work. Over the past 40 years, through the efforts of countless individuals in various fields, the ancient and once dilapidated Great Wall has been given a new lease on life," Su said at the exhibition's opening ceremony.

"It has transformed from an ancient defense structure into a symbol of the spirit and culture of the Chinese nation, as well as a must-visit destination for both domestic and international tourists."

The sponsorships and widespread attention raised by the campaign accelerated the restoration process of the Great Wall, key sections of which, such as Badaling, Mutianyu and Simatai, were subsequently restored and opened to the public.

The exhibition also showcases the advanced technological methods adopted in recent years as part of the wall's reservation efforts, via exhibits including 3D-printed models and multimedia displays.

An interactive section is set up at the end of the exhibition, where visitors can leave comments and sign their names for the campaign, collect themed seal stamps, or scan QR codes to share their own stories with the Great Wall or go on virtual tours to the sites.

"This exhibition not only reflects on the past 40 years of the Great Wall preservation efforts, but also looks forward to the future. Today, the protection, inheritance and utilization of the Great Wall have entered a new era," says Han Zhanming, director of the Capital Museum.

In 2019, a general plan was officially released for the protection of the Great Wall, establishing a long-term mechanism for its preservation, and in 2021, a plan was launched to construct the Great Wall National Cultural Park.

The Capital Museum is now supporting the renovation and upgrading of the China Great Wall Museum, and the Tencent Foundation, a coorganizer of the exhibition, is working with cultural heritage preservation institutions on the adoption of digital methods for preservation and documentation.

"Forty years mark a milestone and a new starting point. This is an opportunity to further unite the efforts of all sectors of society, and elevate the cause of Great Wall preservation to new heights," Han says.

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