Dong Yaohui Hiked the Entire Great Wall in 508 Days

Dong Yaohui, born in 1957 in Funing County, Hebei Province, used to be an electrical engineer in Qinhuangdao Electric Power Authority. From May 4th, 1984 to September 24th, 1985, Dong Yaohui and his two partners created an unprecedented historical record. They hiked along the entire Great Wall from Shanhaiguan in Hebei Province to Jiayuguan in Gansu Province in 508 days, with a distance of more than 7,400 km (4,600 mi). It was the first comprehensive field trip ever made to the Great Wall.

What inspired Dong Yaohui to take the first step?

Why did the young man spend nearly two years to do a thing seemingly irrelevant to his work? In 1982, at the foot of the Shanhaiguan Great Wall in Qinhuangdao, three young men made a shocking plan: walk the entire Great Wall. The then 25-year-old Dong Yaohui was the first of them to come up with this idea. When he installed electric wires in the mountains, he always wandered along the ancient Great Wall in part time. The dragon-like Great Wall winding through the mountains had a mysterious appeal to Dong Yaohui somehow and the idea came into being gradually.

In the year of 1981, a young man from Peking University used 315 days to take a field trip to the Yellow River, which greatly encouraged Dong Yaohui to finally make up his mind. After long deliberation, Dong told his idea to two of his friends. Surprisingly, they all agreed with Dong and decided to join him. The Great Wall hike team, named as “the Son of China” by Dong Yaohui, was initially established.

Dong Yaohui made full preparation before the trip.

After his idea was accepted by two partners, Dong soon made out a detailed plan on preparational work, including taking exercise to ensure physical strength, learning knowledge about the Great Wall and geography, and grasping skills for field survival. At the same time, they needed to give up jobs and persuade their family members to support them. This was even more difficult and one of the two friends dropped out. However, Dong Yaohui had never changed his mind and coped with the situation successfully. According to Dong’s plan, they needed three years to prepare for the upcoming long journey. It turned out that they prepared well before the deadline so they set out for the journey on May 4th, 1984, ahead of the previous departure date.

What difficulties did Dong Yaohui overcome along the way?

On May 4, 1984, Dong Yaohui and his partner Wu Deyu started the trip from Laolongtou Section of Shanhaiguan Great Wall. In July, the photographer Zhang Yuanhua joined in Dong’s team. The travel route designed by Dong Yaohui was tough at the beginning and smoother and smoother as it extended. Therefore, Dong thought as long as long they took the first step, they would succeed, but many challenges were waiting for them.

On the way, they climbed over mountains, went through the Gobi Desert, and passed more than one hundred counties and cities. Sometimes, if they couldn’t not replenish themselves in time, they had to seek food in the field, not to mention that they often camped in the mountains. During the expedition, many sections of the Great Wall collapsed or ended at a cliff, so that the team had to stop every now and then and study the map carefully to find a way to bypass.

Another difficulty was the sense of loneliness in Dong’s eyes. As they travelled through mountains day after day, far from the civilized society, they sometimes feel very lonely, especially when different opinions arose. Fortunately, the three young men managed to adjust emotion and build rapport.

Dong Yaohui devoted himself to the Great Wall protection after the hiking.

For Dong Yaohui, this trek was not an end, but a new start. The more he knew about the Great Wall, the more things he felt necessary to do. During the entire walk, he found out that the Great Wall was disappearing every moment due to natural erosion and human activities, which touched his deep heart. From then on, he determined to devote himself to the protection of Great Wall. Dong compiled a series of books on the Great Wall to draw people’s attention to the current status and protection of the Great Wall. Besides, he initiated the China Great Wall Society and served as the vice chairman. Up to now, he has worked for over 30 years to protect the Great Wall.

Dong Yaohui was termed the “Son of the Great Wall”.

In his early essay “Great Wall Like A Father”, Dong Yaohui wrote passionately: “The Great Wall is like our father, he is aging gradually, but how we wish that he could live longer.” Considering Dong’s outstanding contribution to the Great Wall, he has been termed the “Son of the Great Wall”.

The desire to explore the Great Wall inspired Dong Yaohui to start a long and arduous journey, making him an expert on the Great Wall of China.

 Read stories of others who have walked the entire Great Wall of China:
 William Edgar Geil - The First One Hiked the Entire Great Wall of China: He took 3 months and finished in 1908.
 Liu Yutian – the First Person Hiked the Great Wall Alone: He took 2 years and finished on April 5, 1986.
 William Lindsay - Working on Great Wall Protection after Trekking: He took 8 months to hike in 1987.
 Sally - the Only Woman Walked the Entire Great Wall of China Alone: She took half a year to hike in 1990.
 Ren Erlin & Ren Zigeng – Chinese Father and Son Trekked the Great Wall: They took 89 days and finished the hiking in 2003.
 Jamie Bradish & Rob England - a US Pair Took 10 Months to Walk the Great Wall: They finished in 2007.
 Stephen Robert Loken – the First Person Walked to the East End of Hushan Great Wall: He took 601 days and completed in 2011.

  Further Reading:
How to Hike the Full Length of the Great Wall of China? 8,851.8 km!
How Long to Walk the Great Wall of China?
Has anyone walked the Great Wall of China?
- Last updated on Jun. 10, 2020 -
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