'Meng Jiangnü' monument erected at Great Wall triggers debate on a legendary woman
Published: May 15, 2024 06:01 PM
A stone monument inscribed with the words Meng Jiangnü cried down the Great Wall here Photo: Screenshot from The Cover

A stone monument inscribed with the words "Meng Jiangnü cried down the Great Wall here" Photo: Screenshot from The Cover

The legend of "Meng Jiangnü crying down the Great Wall" is one of China's four great folk tales, filled with mythical intrigue. Recently, a stone monument inscribed with the words "Meng Jiangnü cried down the Great Wall here" triggered controversy. 

Did Meng Jiangnü really cry down the Great Wall? Why erect a monument for a legendary figure? 

On Tuesday, Zhang Yang, the head of the intangible cultural heritage department of the tourism bureau in Shanhaiguan city, North China's Hebei Province, where the monument was put up, responded to online debate.

Zhang explained that the purpose of erecting the monument is to promote the cultural significance of the Meng Jiangnü legend, Chinese media outlet The Cover reported on Wednesday. 

He stated, "The story of Meng Jiangnü crying down the Great Wall is a legend that has evolved over thousands of years, representing the beautiful symbolism in the hearts of the people. However, whether this person actually existed or not is still uncertain."

The legend of Meng Jiangnü has no single definitive version. According to the website of the Intangible Cultural Heritage China, the Meng Jiangnü legend was first included in the national-level intangible cultural heritage representative project list in 2006 under the category of folk literature. The story was submitted by the cultural center of Shanhaiguan city. Since then, three more official departments have submitted versions of the Meng Jiangnü legend for inclusion in the expanded project.

After the successful submission, Shanhaiguan district actively promoted the cultural significance of the Meng Jiangnü legend, leading to the erection of the monument at the Great Wall. 

Zhang mentioned that the local residents have a deep emotional connection to the Meng Jiangnü legend. Various tourist souvenirs such as gourd carvings and handkerchiefs are themed around the legend. Additionally, local operas and songs related to the Meng Jiangnü legend are also created.

In recent years, Shanhaiguan has been actively promoting the legend. Different versions of the legend have been compiled and published. Poems and verses about Meng Jiangnü have been collected and calligraphed for preservation. Also, the research center has produced animated videos related to the legend, The Cover reported.

Zhang revealed that a cultural exhibition showcasing the achievements of Meng Jiangnü's cultural protection will be held on May 19. In July, a seminar on Meng Jiangnü culture will be organized, inviting historians and folklorists from across the country to participate.

Renowned scholar Jiang Lan, vice chairman of the Sichuan Writers Association, suggested adding the words "according to legend" to the monument, which would be more appropriate. "This approach upholds accuracy while preserving the greatness of the legend in literature," Jiang stated. He also emphasized the importance of distinguishing between the birthplace of real historical figures and literary characters.

Global Times