BEIJING, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- In less than nine days, Internet users have donated more than 120,000 yuan (18,000 U.S. dollars) to a Great Wall preservation project.
Since Aug. 29, more than 10,600 people have contributed to the fund, which hopes to raise 11 million yuan by Dec. 1, according to its fundraising webpage.
The money will be used to repair a 1,050 meter-long section of the Great Wall in Xifengkou, Hebei Province. The entire project is estimated to cost 23 million yuan and will be carried out in three stages.
The first stage will renovate 460 meters of the wall, costing 11 million yuan, and is expected to start in spring, said Dong Yaohui, a Great Wall expert in charge of the crowdfinancing.
"The fundraising has been going pretty well. Its primary purpose is to help the public learn more about the Great Wall's history and culture, as well as the difficulties in preserving it. We hope to better engage the public in its protection," said Dong, also vice head of the China Great Wall Society.
The crowdfunding was initiated by the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation, an organization supervised by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.
According to Dong, 94 percent of the contributions will be used to renovate the Xifengkou section and the rest to cover management costs.
How the money is spent and progress of the renovation will be disclosed to the public online or through other channels, he said.
It is possible that the online fundraising, the first attempt of its kind in China's heritage preservation efforts, could miss its target of 11 million yuan by the time it closes, Dong said, adding that they will also canvass businesses for contributions.
Preparations are being made for the first stage, including preliminary surveys and budget estimates.
According to budget estimates posted online, the 11 million yuan will be mainly be spent on labor, materials and machinery.
The weatherworn Xifengkou section has a history of more than 500 years but is at risk of collapse at any time, Dong said.
"The project will mainly reinforce the wall to ensure the safety of the section, rather than try to build a new wall."
Donors will receive updates on the project and use of the money. They will also be invited to seminars, inspections or even brick-making activities, Dong said.
Dates have yet to be decided for fundraising for the second and third stages, Dong said, adding that similar events will be launched to fund daily maintenance of the wall, staff, and renovation of smaller elements of the wall such as a tower.
"It is an arduous task to protect the Great Wall, a heritage site very large in size. Its protection requires far more than government efforts. The public should be fully mobilized," Dong said.
At a total length of more than 21,000 kilometers, China's Great Wall runs through 404 counties and districts, with much of it in poor condition due to natural erosion and man-made damage.
According to figures released by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage in 2012, of the 6,200 kilometers of the wall built during the Ming Dynasty, less than 10 percent is in good condition, 40 percent is in poor condition and 30 percent has disappeared.
Though recent years have seen much progress in protecting the Great Wall, evident in increased legislation and enhanced public awareness, protection efforts are still understaffed and underfunded, especially in the large number of impoverished counties along the Great Wall, said Dong.
"By pooling the contribution of every single individual, however small it is, we will be able to form a great wall to protects the Great Wall," he said.