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.



Bonan 保安族

2020-07-16 11:42

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Bonan 保安族

Discover the Bonan, one of the 56 ethnic groups living in China.




Discover the Bonan, 保安族.




The 保安族 (Bǎo'ān zú), Bonan or Bao’an, with a population of 20,074 (data 2010), are one of the 56 officially recognized ethnic groups in China. They are mainly distributed in Gansu, namely in Jishishan Bonan, Dongxiang and Salar Autonomous County. Traditionally, they speak the Bao’an language, deriving from the Mongolian, and their name historically comes from the Bao’an Village, established in 1371, during the Qin dynasty.

They are Muslim and they are historically and culturally linked to the Hui, the Mongolian, the Tibetan and the Tu ethnicities.


They area famous in China and abroad for their handicraft skills, namely for knife forging – from brass, copper and bones – wood engraving and paper cutting. Bonan knifes are exported also in Japan, India and Saudi Arabia.


Bonan’s oral literature and language (保安族口头文学与语言 临夏州积石山县) and Bonan’s forging skills of waist knives (保安族腰刀锻制技艺 临夏州积石山县) are listed among the National Intangible Cultural Heritage (中國非物質文化遺產).

Traditionally, men wear round white or black hats, while women wear long-veiled hats – with black or green veils according to their marital status. Men wear black robes, adding colorful trimmings for festivals, while women weardark colours coats (aubergine, dark green coats, blue or black), occasionally with colorful trimmings.

Their diet consists of spicy and sour vegetable and meat, accompanied by pastries and steamed bread – they do not drink alcohol nor eat pig, horse, donkey, mule, nor animals which die naturally. They are well known for their hospitality, and they follow strict rituals when they invite hosts during meals.


-          Chen H.W., “Harmonious China – Features of China’s 56 Ethnic Groups”, 2010

-          Mackerras C., “China’s Ethnic Minorities and Globalization”, 2003

-          The People’s Republic of China, “Sixth National Population Census of the People’s Republic of China”, 2010

-          www. baike.baidu.com/item/甘肃省省级非物质文化遗产名录

-          www.chinadaily.com

-          www.culturalheritagechina.org

-          www.chinatravel.com

-          www.travelchinaguide.com

Pictures credits

-          Chen Haiwen

-          asianewsphoto

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