Ancient Great Wall Peasant Protector-from Hated by all to Praised by all
One of the essences along the Great Wall, the Ming-era Great Wall stretches over 140 kilometers in Funing County of Hebei Province, which is relatively well-preserved due to the continuous protection from 18 Great Wall protectors such as Zhang Heshan.
The 60-year old Zhang Heshan was born in Chengziyu Village, Zhucaoying Town, Funing County of Hebei Province, who has volunteered to guard the Great Wall section along his hometown by walking over 10-kilometer mountainous road each day since 1978, regardless of cold winter or hot summer.
Zhang Heshan used to play hide-and-seek and listen to the legends of the Great Wall during his childhood, and the Great Wall means more and more to him as time goes by. "The Great Wall is a cultural legacy left by our ancestors, so there's no reason for us not to protect it due to that a piece (of brick) moved is a piece reduced."
Tourists seldom came here for sightseeing before. Most visitors were from the neighboring villagers for herding sheep, digging scorpions and herbs as sideline, and Zhang Heshan would also stop them even though they are his acquaintances.
Lots of villagers considered that Zhang Heshan stopped them from making money, and call his names behind his back. "None of your business. The Great Wall is operated by your family? Don't you have nothing else to do?"
Zhang Heshan still guards and patrols the Great Wall with a sickle and a jute bag each day though many people don't understand him. Zhang says, "The sickle is used for chopping roots on the Great Wall and the jute bag is for garbage collection, and I do this for protection of these cultural heritages left by our ancestors."
Zhang Heshan and the other five peasants were permitted to join China Great Wall Society in 1997 due to their passion and protection of the Great Wall, becoming the first batch of peasant members since the inception of the society.
The Great Wall Protector System has been launched by Funing government since 2003, based on which the Great Wall is divided into 18 sections in Funing County, and each section is guarded by a protector like Zhang Heshan.
Though they are common peasants, their regular reports play an important role in protecting the Great Wall and raising the awareness of the neighboring villagers to protect the Great Wall.
Some sections have been opened as scenic areas in recent years, along which the local peasants open restaurants and hotels and get benefits from it. Zhang Heshan claims: "the villagers accept my opinions more and more, who even actively tell me which section is left unprotected, and I am transformed from the one hated by all in 1970s-1980s to the one praised by all."
It's the greatest wish of Zhang Heshan to protect this cultural heritage left by ancestors. As for the development of the Great Wall, Zhang claims that: "the Great Wall, as the national treasure, should be protected first to preserve its antique charm, and even a grass, a tree or a piece of brick is inviolable and should be preserve its original appearance."