Living at the foot of the Great Wall, I have grown up listening to tales about it. The Wall has been a part of me ever since I was a child. Flowing through my veins is the blood of my ancestors: they were Ming Dynasty soldiers who migrated from Yiwu in Zhejiang Province, far off in South China, to build and guard the Wall at Chengziyu in Funing County. So it’s no wonder that my heart ached when, during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), engraved stone tablets were smashed by red guards out to destroy China’s feudal past. I endured more pain when villagers, ignorant and helplessly poor, hacked at the Wall with their pickaxes for its bricks.
The Wall was crying, and so was I. I thought to myself that the destruction of the Wall must be stopped. If the Wall disappeared, how would I be able to explain such a loss to my own grandchildren? Back in 1979 I decided to take action. For 30 consecutive years now I have patrolled the Wall. Thirty years, from 1979 to 2009 – that’s more than 10,000 days! Actually, I don’t remember too many of the hardships during this half-a-lifetime’s self assignment, but a quick calculation suggests that I’ve worn out about 360 pairs of rubber shoes. Another rough calculation tells me that during my Wall patrols I have covered a distance that could have taken me around the globe, several times.
I’ve committed myself to protecting the Wall, the way I protect the wall that surrounds my courtyard, so that its greatness can be seen and appreciated by future generations. During my spare time I have also collected folktales and legends about the Wall. I have tried to publish them so that more people can learn about the origin of its
Place-names, and understand our traditions beside it. In 2005, photographer Tian Li from Shenyang visited Chengziyu and gave me a camera, a made-in-China Seagull 4B 120. I was extremely happy because I could now illustrate my storytelling. I’d also like to thank photographer Zhao Huanyang, also from Shenyang, and Lang Xiaoguang of the Guangshun Group Co. based in Qinhuangdao who visited in 2007 and gave me a digital camera.
In July of the same year, I first met William Lindesay of International Friends of the Great Wall. He was travelling with his wife Wu Qi, and their family and friends, from Shanhaiguan to Yangguan, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his solo adventure on foot along the Wall in 1987. William stayed at Chengziyu and was obviously impressed by what I was doing to protect the Wall, and interested in the Great Wall folktales I told him. The following year, in May 2008, William revisited Chengziyu, this time bringing with him a large group comprising members of International Friends of the Great Wall and their sponsor BHP Billiton. They launched a Great Wall protection project here, committing themselves to funding six local Wall rangers for two years, and also publishing this book, Whispers from the Wall — Great Wall Folktales Told across the Centuries. I am very thankful for the help given by William and his wife Wu Qi, and for BHP Billiton’s generosity.
I’m an ordinary farmer, and I know my text is roughly written. With the help of Mr. Li Zhuren’s editing work, I do hope that by reading my book, more people will hear my plea, the call that we, as guardians of the Great Wall, want to spread: Let’s all work together to preserve the Great Wall!
Chengziyu Village, Funing County, Hebei Province