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The writing's (on the Net) on the Wall
(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-02-28 05:41

"It's good compared with the old ones," he said.

Volunteers often collect old pictures of the Great Wall, find out where they were taken and try to take pictures at the same location to reflect its current condition in hopes of arousing authorities' attention to the worsening situation.

"I suggest taking pictures here with an unfolded national flag," Hong said later in an online posting, which generated replies from other web members who approved of the idea.

During their explorations, the volunteers always bear a sense of protection in mind, as authorities worry about the threat travellers pose to the already-fragile structure.

They call for travellers to leave nothing but footsteps when they tour historical sites.

Also, they seldom reveal their routes to outsiders for fear that travel agencies and property developers might make use of the information to make money.

"It did happen before," Hong said. "Some travel agencies exploited the section and even used our picture as a selling point."

The unexpected harm to the relics and the garbage travellers may leave there "just breaks our hearts," Hong said.

Thanks to their efforts, some parts of the Wall damaged by natural forces were remedied immediately. Last July the volunteers received feedback from local authorities after they reported a collapse during an exploration earlier last year.

Some trips have even resulted in accidental discoveries of cultural items, such as the porcelain dating back to the Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220).

"I have been totally immersed in my connection with the Great Wall," Hong said, showing his transcriptions on the computer.

"When I read these old materials, I feel so close to history, as if I were talking to our ancestors. Hundreds of years have passed, but it feels like only a short time ago."

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