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.



Dongxiang 东乡族

2020-08-22 17:29

Array( [75765] => Array ( [author_name] => stefano-sartorio [author_description] => [slug] => stefano-sartorio )) no author 76089

tenbillionsteps, santa, sarta, chinese culture,

Dongxiang 东乡族

Discover the Dongxiang, 东乡族, one of the 56 officially recognized ethnic groups in China.




Discover the Dongxiang, 东乡族




The Dongxiang 东乡族, also “Sarta” or "Santa", as they call themselves, with a population of 621,500 (2010), are one of the 56 officially recognized ethnic groups in China.

They are mainly distributed in Gansu (Dongxiang Autonomous County in Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture), Qinghai, Ningxia and Xinjiang. Traditionally, they speak the Dongxiang language or a more modern dialect, the Tangwang. The name Dongxiang means “eastern village”.


Most of the Dongxiang people believe in Islam. They are famous for being very pious and for having strict taboos about social life and personal behavior: they do not smoke or drink alcohol, men cannot wear long hair, they are forbidden to tell lies and to speak ill of other behind their back, they do not eat animals that die of natural causes nor coagulated blood nor a list of animals including cats, dogs, donkeys, horses, mules and pigs.


They are famous also for their « flower» singing style. «Hua’er (花儿) songs» or «flower songs» are traditional Dongxiang folk songs expressing hope for a better life.


Traditionally, men wear white or black skullcaps and women wear veiled hats with different colours based on their age and marital status. All wear long robes.


Their diet mainly consists of wheat, highland barley, corn, beans and potatoes. Special Dongxiang dishes include youxiang (flour cake with salt, fried in sesame oil), lahaha (stretched or planed noodles), and gajiwa (chicken cut and divided to serve to people according to seniority).


-          archive.shine.cn/sunday/now-and-then/Dongxiang-share-oral-tradition/shdaily.shtml

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

-          chinaembassy.ee/eng/zggk/mz/t109327.htm

-          chinatravel.com/facts/dongxiang-ethnic-minority.htm

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

Pictures credits

-          Chen Haiwen (group photo)

-          shanghaidaily.com (sewing group photo)

-          g-photography.net (red-dressed woman photo)
-          imdb.org (man wearing hat)

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