William Lindesay wishes to take Great wall to British Museum





William Lindesay with his family in front of Buckingham Palace after he was appointed

OBE on July 12, 2006.   Photo by Ma Jianguo






William Lindesay

wishes to take Great wall to

British Museum


By Wang Chenxi and Yuan Quan  |  CHINA FEATURES



William Lindesay runs along the Shanhaiguan Section of the Great Wall in the

summer of 1986.   Photo provided by Lindesay



In the late Eighties, a young Briton who grew up on Merseyside but had a fascination with the Great Wall set out on a life-changing journey. William Lindesay arrived in China in 1986 when the country was still in its early days of opening to the world.

Long before “adventure tourism” became an industry, he set out to run the entire length of the Great Wall – all 2,470km (1,500 miles) – exploring as he went.

Along the way he was questioned by police who suspected he might be a spy and became an object of curiosity as the inhabitants of China’s remote rural areas marvelled at his golden hair.

He also fell in love and married his Chinese wife, Wu Qi, in 1988. “It was the ultimate physical and romantic adventure and it has anchored my future in China,” Lindesay says in a video promoting his new book, The Great Wall in 50 Objects.

Almost 30 years on, the golden hair is grey, but Lindesay’s passion is undimmed. After 30 years of research, he is now one of the foremost authorities on the Great Wall and works tirelessly to protect it.

He believes that the Wall is China’s best cultural ambassador and has ambitions to work with the British Museum and the British Library on exhibitions. They would feature items from his own collection and from Chinese museums.

Another of his projects is to promote co-operation between Britain and China on the preservation of the Great Wall. He aims to use the experience gained at Hadrian’s Wall to improve the tourism development and protection of the Great Wall.

He is a permanent resident of China, and he and Wu Qi live in suburban Beijing with their elder son, who is studying history at Beijing University, and the younger one, who is at high school.

In the years after his initial journey, Lindesay observed the growing numbers of tourists coming to the Wall – and the piles of litter left in their wake.

He set out to clean it up, organising volunteer parties to collect the rubbish.

Assisted by his family, these efforts developed into campaigns to protect the environment and relics of the Great Wall.

“I’m a messenger to wake the national consciousness of China’s great legacy. Many Chinese join me to protect and preserve the Great Wall and its environment,” says Lindesay.

Over the years, he has become an expert on its history, architecture and archaeology. In his study hang maps dating back to the 16th century. Three years ago in Mongolia he discovered what is believed to be an extension of the Great Wall dating originally from the Han Dynasty (200BC-AD200).

His efforts have been recognised in China and around the world. In 1998, the Chinese government conferred on him the Friendship Award, the highest honour for foreigners, and in 2006 he was appointed OBE. “The Queen shook my hand and said, ‘Protecting the Great Wall is a lifetime’s work, you’ve done good job.’,” he recalls. “I know I’m going to carry on.”

Wu Qi remembers her first visit to London with her husband and how few Chinese she saw. “Now I can find Chinese all over Britain as tourists, students and business people.”

Despite the greater contacts between China and the world, Lindesay still finds it necessary to explain China to westerners.

“Many foreign tourists come to China. They tell me the Chinese food is good, its people are friendly, and that’s all. They still don’t know this country and what happens there,” he says.

“China is making life more comfortable for its people, opening to the rest of the world. It constantly changes and solves problems. The world needs China, as much as the other way around.”

The Great Wall is still under threat, but the preservation campaign is now widely supported by the government, enterprises and civil groups. “Not all the stories are rosy, but overall I’m optimistic,” says Lindesay.






        Xinhua news page distributed with “The Times” dated on October 20, 2015









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