Ren Erlin & Ren Zigeng – Chinese Father and Son Trekked the Great Wall

The summer of 2001 to 2003 was a precious memory for Ren Erlin and Ren Zigeng, a father and his son from China. Starting from the Laolongtou Section of Shanhaiguan Great Wall, they spent 89 days finishing hiking the entire Great Wall. During the long journey of over 5,000 km (3,100 mi), they met with lots of hardships but never gave up. The little boy Ren Zigeng has been highly spoken of for his bravery and his deeds are considered a good example of outdoor education in China.

Why did Ren Erlin and Ren Zigeng walk the entire Great Wall?

When Ren Erlin was young, he always dreamt that China could hold the Olympic Games. On July 13, 2001, after Samaranch announced that Beijing had won the bid for the 2008 Olympic Games, Ren Erlin was so excited that he wanted to do something to celebrate it. Finally, he decided to make a bold move, ie., walk the entire Great Wall with his 8-year-old son during the following three summer vacations. Then on the following day, Ren Erlin and Ren Zigeng set foot on the Shanhaiguan Great Wall, the starting point of their trip.

Ren Zigeng grew up from a boy into a brave man during the journey

If walking the entire Great Wall was the father’s dream, then taking his son together would be the hidden love of a father to his son. Ren Erlin wanted to teach his son how to overcome difficulties and be a brave man through the walk. They passed 9 provinces, traversed the ruins of ancient Great Wall, mountains, the Loess Plateau, deserts, and over 100 rivers. During the 89 days, they suffered from various difficulties. As they went on the trip in hot summer, they had to expose themselves in the sun. The lack of food and supplies forced them to seek food in deserts, eat wild fruit, and drink dirty water. What’s more dangerous, they were once bitten by a snake. However, all these did not stop the father and son and they finally become “Good Men” to conquer the Great Wall successfully. 

On the way, the boy learned how to pitch tent, give first aid, find out the right route using a map, cook dinner, and look after others. Most importantly, he became to know how to think, judge and the significance of environmental protection. During the entire trip, he never thought of giving up and grew up in to a brave man. 

Support from Ren Erlin’s wife encouraged him to keep on the trek

Ren Erlin’s wife Yin Xianghua was an ordinary factory worker. She totally understood her husband and son’s will of hiking the Great Wall. Although the family was not well off, she never complained and took family responsibilities herself when her husband and son were on the trek. Not only that, she accompanied them to finish the last 10-day journey. Ren Erlin said, “Without the support from my wife, I bet that I cannot make the trip. I’m so grateful to her”.

Ren Erlin & Ren Zigeng Selected as 2008 Beijing Olympic Torchbearers

Ren Erlin and Ren Zigeng’s passionate walk on the entire Great Wall to spread Olympic spirit drew attention of the whole country. In 2007, they were selected as the torchbearers of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. For Ren Erlin, this was perhaps the proudest moment in his life. He never thought that his dream would come true so fast. Then on July 31, 2008, Ren Erlin and Ren Zigeng ran the 182 and 183 legs of the torch relay.

A good example of outdoor education

After completing the whole trek, Ren Erlin and Ren Zigeng published a book on outdoor education. In the book, they adopted some travel logs during the Great Wall hike. Ren Erlin hoped his son could build an independent and tough character through outdoor activities. During the trip, he summarized the creditable performance of the son and pointed out things to be modified every day. This played an important role in Ren Zigeng’s growth. The book also introduced the concepts of “Harmonious Family” and “Study-oriented Family” and has been widely acclaimed by readers. The media called it the first book on quality education practice in 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.
 Dong Yaohui Hiked the Entire Great Wall: He took 508 days and completed on September 24, 1985
 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.
 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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