What the project aims to achieve is the recognition of the Great Wall as a living ecosystem, showing a different picture of the Wall, namely not the architectural nor historical sight, instead the human and natural ecosystem, exploring human activities in the area and understanding how they interact with the natural environment and the Wall and how these three elements are or can become mutually beneficial. During the fieldwork there will be a comprehensive observation and collection of information about the cultural peculiarities and natural uniqueness of the ecosystem. The project aims at correctly produce an innovative interpretation of the issue itself.

While travelling along the provinces, another purpose will be that of exploring Sino-European cultural relations through a bottom-up approach, showing that cooperation between two passionate foreigners and local long-established communities can be mutually beneficial, especially if the common aim is the conservation of an ecosystem, which is also a world heritage. Increase awareness on the importance of conservation, sustainable development, tourism sustainability, value and respect of local cultures, and on the close ties between nature and cultural heritage is another main goal. This goes well along with the aim of fostering Great Wall ecosystem environmental preservation through sharing positive practices and new solutions abiding from mutual dialogue and common experiences. Collecting and sharing views, tools, experience and examples of various local communities on development opportunities while respecting and conserving the environment, in order to conduct sustainable activities. 

All of this will be made stressing the splendor and variety of rural local cultures in China, less famous than touristic sights, nonetheless characterized by an equally relevant cultural heritage, fostering their conservation. Understanding whether habits, food, typical products, myths and beliefs of various communities living along different spots of the Wall share similarities due to this common characteristic; in other terms, the goal consists of understanding whether the Ming Dynasty Wall has been a “Great Road” connecting and influencing distant communities living along it. We intend to encourage this new study approach integration to existing ones.

At the end of the day, inspiring explorers and dreamers of all ages, showing that even small steps may have a positive impact on a wider community, is the final reason why this initiative came to life. The aim is to show that the Chinese proverb “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” is not just a common saying, instead it can become true with the right balance between passion, reason and preparation.



Ethnic groups along the Ming Dynasty Great Wall

2020-06-05 18:57

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Ethnic groups along the Ming Dynasty Great Wall

Discover the 15 ethnic groups living in the regions crossed by the Ming Dynasty Great Wall.



Bonan, Daur, Dongxiang, Han, Hui, Kazakh, Korean, Mongol,  Salar, Tibetan, Tu,Tuija  Xibe, Yugur, and Zhuang are the ethnic groups living in the regions crossed by the Ming Dynasty Great Wall.


15 ethnic groups live in the 9 provinces crossed by the Ming Dynasty Great Wall: Bonan, Daur, Dongxiang, Han, Hui, Kazakh, Korean, Mongol,  Salar, Tibetan, Tu,Tuija  Xibe, Yugur, and Zhuang.


Bonan (保安族, Bǎo'ān zú) – mainly located in Gansu, they are mainly Muslims, and they speak Mongolian language.


Daur (达斡尔族, Dáwò'ěr zú) – mainly located in Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang, traditionally they conduct vegetable farming, animal husbandry, logging, hunting and fishing activities, they have cultural affinities with the Mongolians, and they are mainly Shamanist.

Dongxiang (东乡族, Dōngxiāng zú) – mainly located in Gansu and Xinjiang, they are closely related to the Mongolians, they are mostly Muslims, and traditionally they conducted agricultural activities.

Han (汉族, Hàn zú)  – the Han make up 92% of the population in China, their name comes from the Han Dynasty, which ruled China from 206 BC to 220 AD.

Hui (回族, Huí zú)  – their origin dates back to the 17th century, when Arab and Persians merchants settled in China, they are mainly Muslims.

Kazakh (哈萨克族, Hāsàkè zú)  – of Turkish origins, they speak Turkish, they are famous for their horsemanship, and they are mainly Muslims and Shamanist.

Korean (朝鲜族, Cháoxiǎn zú)  – mainly located in Jilin, Heilongjiang, and Liaoning, their presence in China dates back to the 17th century, and their culture and language are Korean.

Mongol (蒙古族, Měnggǔ zú)  – traditionally nomadic, they speak several Mongolian dialects, and their main religion is Tibetan Buddhism.

Salar (撒拉族, Sālā zú)  – mainly located in the semi-desert province of Qinghai, they speak Turkish, they are mainly Muslim, and traditionally they herd sheep and cattle.

Tibetan (藏族, Zàng zú)  –they have a distinctive culture based on Buddhism and a rich literature, and traditionally they are farmers and herders.

Tu (土族, Tǔ zú)  – mainly located in Qinghai and Gansu, they speak a Mongolian dialect, traditionally they are farmers and herders, and they are mainly Tibetan Buddhist or polytheist.

Tuija (土家族, Tǔjiā zú)  – located in many provinces in China, traditionally they conducted farming activities.

Xibe (锡伯族, Xíbó zú)  – mainly located in Liaoning and Xinjiang, the speak a Manchu-Tungus dialect, and they are mainly polytheist or Tibetan Buddhist.

Yugur (裕固族,  Yùgù zú) – mainly located in Gansu, they speak Turkish, they are traditionally herders, farmers and hunters, and they are mainly Tibetan Buddhist.

Zhuang (壮族, Zhuàng zú) – located in many provinces in China, they speak a dialect related to Thai, and their main religion are Buddhism, Daoism, ancestor worship and Christianity.


1)      Tabulation on the 2010 population census of the P.R.C. (2010), http://www.stats.gov.cn/tjsj/pcsj/rkpc/6rp/indexch.htm;

2)      C. Mackerras, “China’s Ethnic Minorities and Globalisation” (2003); ISBN 0-203-34420-0.

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