Former coal boss rebuilds section of the Great Wall near his village for tourism boost

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-4-10 19:36:21

Xu Guohua stands on a section of the rebuilt Great Wall in Banchangyu village in Qinhuangdao, Hebei Province. Photo: IC

As many parts of the Great Wall of China have crumbled or been eroded over the centuries, some people have taken it upon themselves to protect and even rebuild sections of the centuries-old barrier.

In Qinhuangdao, North China's Hebei Province adjacent to Beijing, coalmine owner-turned conservationist Xu Guohua has rebuilt much of the wall around his native village using the money he accumulated through exploiting black gold in the two decades after China began its reform and opening-up.

At the height of China's coalmining boom, Xu owned seven mines and employed 800 people. But as China began closing smaller coalmines over environment and safety concerns, Xu shifted to other businesses.

He decided to try his luck in tourism. Banchangyu village boasts 25 kilometers of Great Wall built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) with 67 watch towers, however, most of the ancient military structure has beome dilapidated.

Not without opposition from his family, Xu began renovating and rebuilding the wall sections on the mountaintop by employing the fellow villagers. Xu tried to restore the Great Wall to its original appearance, through using bricks the same size of the old ones.

As of now, more than 100 million yuan ($15.5 million) has been spent rebuilding the Great Wall and construction of tourist infrastructure in Banchangyu. As a result, every year it attracts thousands of visitors.

As workers experimented with means of building the wall, Xu said he believed they have figured out the mystery of what methods people in ancient times adopted. Unlike his previous thought that Ming Dynasty workers transported bricks on cattle, Xu said his experiments proved this was impossible. The workers cut the base stones into smaller pieces to be passed one by one to the mountaintop. It took 1,000 workers to put one stone in place.

As the renovations in different historic periods adopted different techniques, Xu said he was almost certain that this section of Great Wall has been renovated at least twice.

Over the process of rebuilding the Great Wall, Xu and his workers made archeological discoveries, including hundred year-old kilns and spotted hyena fossils, a species that has become extinct in Asia.

Global Times

The Great Wall winds across the mountaintop as seen from a rebuilt watch tower. Photo: IC

Villagers lay bricks to rebuild the Great Wall. Photo: IC

Workers stand on scaffolding to renovate a watch tower. Photo: IC

Xu collects usable bricks from the crumbled Great Wall. Photo: IC

Newspaper headline: Make the Wall great again

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