Liu Zonglin, a 72-year-old farmer who has worked voluntarily for 41 years to protect the Great Wall.
Liu Zonglin, a 72-year-old farmer who has worked voluntarily for 41 years to protect the Great Wall, said he would never give up the cause in which he takes so much pride.
Liu was born and has lived in Yushudi village of Chengde in North China's Hebei province, which borders Beijing's Miyun district and is about 150 km from the capital.
At the village sits a section of the Great Wall built in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), which runs 9.88 km across Liu's hometown and a neighboring village.
The section, including 10 towers and one gate, has been badly damaged over time due to natural and human factors.
"I've lived by the Great Wall my whole life, I feel like it's my responsibility to take care of it," said Liu, adding that the Great Wall has been a part of his life since childhood.
When he was a child, Liu would climb up to the towers with his playmates, sometimes to play while other times to help his parents collect tree branches from the mountain.
"It's not the same anymore," Liu said.
"Back in 1970s, villagers didn't understand the historic significance of the Great Wall," he said.
Many villagers stole bricks and stones from the towers and used them to build their houses.
The Great Wall was listed as a World Cultural Heritage in 1987. The sections built in the Ming Dynasty are the most essential and complete part.
To stop the thieves, Liu kept checking the section regularly- about once every other day - and reported to local government officials if he spotted any untoward behavior or fire.
"I tried my best to stop them and to tell them that protecting the Great Wall rather than destroying it is what we should be doing," Liu said.
His preaching brought him hatred from those villagers who found him boring and officious.
"I don't care, as long as they don't vandalize the precious cultural heritage," Liu said.
"While climbing along the rocky paths that lead to a tower, I also pick up trash and remove weeds to keep the Wall clean," he said.
Liu's action was also opposed by his wife, who wanted him not to waste time and instead focus on cultivating land or feeding cattle, on which they depend on.
"I won't listen to her, because I'm stubborn," Liu said, proudly.
His efforts and persistence have paid off.
People stopped damaging the Great Wall and five more protectors have been recruited by the department for cultural heritage protection of Chengde county, where the village is located.
In 2013, the section was designated as one of the major sites protected at the national level.
The section sees many tourists from Beijing as the section has never been repaired or rebuilt and still retains its original look, Liu said.
He said the Wall in his hometown is being known gradually by more people.
But he wants more.
"I have a dream that the part can be restored to its former glory in the future," Liu said.
Unlike many well-maintained tourist attractions, such as Badaling in Beijing, Shanhaiguan in Qinhuangdao, and Jinshanling in Chengde, the section has been seriously damaged, with only two of its towers in good condition.
This dream of Liu might also come true.
According to the Relics Bureau of Chengde, the city has submitted an application for repairing the section to the nation's top government organ for the preservation of cultural relics - State Administration of Cultural Heritage.
Like Liu, there were 3,400 protectors across the country as of June last year, scattered in 404 counties along the 21,000 km of the Great Wall in China, according to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.
Most of them are villagers who are familiar with local geographical circumstances and can be efficient in patrolling the Walls, said an official at the Relics Bureau of Chengde, surnamed Du.
About a year ago, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage started to issue official work cards to Great Wall protectors, a move that shows the importance the country is putting on preserving the cultural heritage.
"For regular patrol, the protectors are irreplaceable strength in protecting the Great Wall," said Gu Yucai, deputy head of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.