William Lindesay

English author, runner, and conservationist

William Lindesay has spent more than 800 days on the Great Wall during his many years in China, completing “the most successful foreign exploration of the Great Wall” according to China’s Xinhua News Agency.

The British researcher has conducted extensive surveys on the Beijing portion of the Great Wall, publishing three books on the subject including documentation of his 2,470km solo journey Alone on the Great Wall. Organizing efforts to protect this wonder of the world, William has founded several societies and programs that engage in Great Wall conservation.

In 2001 he founded “International Friends of the Great Wall”, a Hong Kong based society to assist China’s cultural relics protection team in preserving the Great Wall.

Lindesay’s contributions to the conservation of the Great Wall and Sino-UK relations have earned him international recognition. In 1998, he was awarded the Friendship Award – the highest award for foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to the country’s economic and social progress – by the government of the People’s Republic of China for his lifelong work in conserving the Great Wall. He received the medal from former Premier Zhu Rongji. 

In 2006, Lindesay was included in the 2006 New Years Honours Diplomatic Service and Overseas List, and was made an Officer of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for services to UK-China understanding and to international conservation of the Great Wall.

In 2008, he was named a “Top Ten National Defender of Cultural Heritage” by the Chinese government, and in 2016, he was awarded the Special Award of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs in recognition of exceptionally outstanding and unusual achievement in Asia.

One rarely finds a perfect story of the distant past, complete and in one place, and certainly not for such a complex series of landmarking structures known simply as the Great Wall of China. Rather, one must embark on a journey, gather the parts of the story and slowly piece them together.

William Lindesay

Related Events:

  • WildChina Book Club: The Great Wall in 50 Objects by William Lindesay

The Great Wall in 50 Objects

From the survey beforehand to the foundations, the core, and eventually the ruins, this book explores the majesty of the Wall through the objects it has inspired such as the appearance of the Wall in Ortelius’ atlas of the world to the unexpected origins of ‘wolf smoke’, proliferation of the blunderbuss in the 15th century Great Wall theatre of war, and Kafka’s classic short story “At the Building of the Great Wall”