Event Detail

17
Dec
2009

Great Wall Revisited

William Lindsay OBE
Thursday, 17 Dec 2009
2/F Olympic House, So Kong Po, Causeway Bay
The explorer William Geil was the first man to travel along the whole length of the Ming Great Wall in 1908 and the first to show the world the Wall’s architectural diversity from east to west. Eighty years later in 1987, the ‘second William of the Great Wall’, William Lindesay, trekked solo and on foot for 2,470 km by following the ruins of the Ming Great Wall from its desert origins to its seaside terminus. Mr Lindesay presents his moving photo results showing how the Great Wall has changed in 84 locations in the intervening period.

We are delighted to welcome to Hong Kong again William Lindesay to lecture on “Great Wall Revisited". Mr Lindesay has lived in China for 20 years and has spent 1,600 days on the Great Wall. He was the first person in modern times, in 1987, to walk the whole 2,500 km length of the Great Wall, on which he has authored four books.

The explorer William Geil was the first man to travel along the whole length of the Great Wall in 1908 and the first to show the world the Wall’s architectural diversity from east to west. Eighty years later, in 1987, the ‘second William of the Great Wall’, William Lindesay, trekked solo and on foot for 2,500 km by following the ruins of the Wall from its desert origins to its seaside terminus. He published “Alone on the Great Wall" in 1989, the first account of Great Wall exploration by a foreigner in modern times.

William Geil published the first ever book on the Wall 100 years ago in November 1909. Over the last five years, Mr Lindesay has painstakingly compared Geil’s Wall of 100 years ago, with the Wall of his own epic journey in 1987, with the Wall now. During the five years he clocked up a distance of 40,000 km back and forth along the Wall, searching for locations which could be compared. Mr Lindesay in this lecture presents the stunning photo results and commentary of this work, showing how the Great Wall has changed in 84 locations in the intervening period.

Revisiting the Great Wall in this way has allowed an assessment of how and why the Great Wall has changed during the 20th century, a time of cataclysmic upheavals in Chinese history. It also inspired Mr Lindesay to search galleries and scour institutional collections worldwide for other vintage images of the Great Wall, which are included in the lecture. A classic example is a very broken down section of the Wall in Hebei Province, a picture of which William Lindesay had taken and included in his own book in 1987, but in Geil’s photograph shows a handsome watchtower.

William Lindesay read geography and geology at Liverpool University. Since 1994 he has primarily been engaged in systematic research of the Great Wall. In 1998 Mr Lindesay organised two major “Great Wall Clean Ups" and the value of his efforts was recognised by China awarding him the “Friendship Medal". Reports and editorials on his work have appeared in a Newsweek cover story, the International Herald Tribune, on BBC World Service Television, and in Beijing Youth Daily and Beijing Times among others. His photographs have appeared in both National Geographic Magazine and a Great Wall special issue of Chinese National Geography. He has also written for the Asia Wall Street Journal, Conde Nast Traveler, ICON, Archaeology, The Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Independent. Mr Lindesay has lectured worldwide including to the Explorers Club, innumerable universities and the Asia Society. In 2001 he founded International Friends of the Great Wall, an outspoken conservation society that has been widely credited with triggering an awakening of national consciousness to protect the Great Wall from further modern attack as China develops apace. Mr. Lindesay was awarded the OBE for his work in 2006.

Members and their guests are most welcome to attend this lecture, which is HK$100 for Members and HK$150 for guests and others.

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