ICON, Summer 2003
Few monuments on Earth are as famed as the Great Wall of China. Few know the age-old monument as intimately as William Lindesay, a British long-distance runner who first encountered the wall in 1986. Arriving in Beijing with little more than a pair of running shoes and a backpack, Lindesay was determined to become the first foreigner to run the entire length of the wall's surviving remains—more than 2,400 kilometers' worth—from its western terminus at Jiayuguan, deep in Gansu Province, to Shanhaiguan on the Bohai Sea. Little did Lindesay know that more than a decade later, he would become one of the foremost authorities on the Great Wall and one of the world's most vocal advocates for its preservation. "I was most concerned about the condition of the Wild Wall, that portionoutside Beijing that has suffered the most from neglect, vandalism, exploitation, and commercial development," Lindesay told ICON. "The Great Wall is undoubtedly the world's greatest work of environmental art, and the one feature above all others that defines China. Yet it has endured far more than the effects of old age. Vast sections of the wall are covered with graffiti, while other stretches have been viewed as little more than a source of raw building materials. Surviving sections have all to o often fallen victim t o commercial exploitation and inappropriate reconstruction." Today, the future looks a little brighter for the Great Wall, thanks to the tireless campaigns of Lindesay and others, including Dong Yaohui of the China Great Wall Society (see page 28). Their efforts have begun to pay off. Just recently, Beijing officials adopted long-overdue legislation to protect the wall—albeit only the stretch just outside the capital city—for future generations.