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                            Cultural relics protection should avoid pursuit of instant benefits

                            Author  :  ZHANG BINGJIAN     Source  :    Guangming Daily     2020-04-29

                            Recent reports have exposed two cultural relics that have been damaged due to botched repair and poor preservation.

                            Reports said a stone bridge dating from the Jin to Yuan dynasties (1115–1368) was damaged due to botched repairs. Located in Xinzhou, Shanxi Province, the Tieliang Bridge is a site designated to be protected due to its historical and cultural value. Another reported case consists of a white pagoda in Aohan Banner in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The pagoda, originally built in the Liao Dynasty (907–1125), was declared a site protected at the national level. After a long time of neglect, however, the pagoda is facing the risk of collapse.

                            Restoration work stabilized the remaining structure of the bridge, however, making it quite different to what it originally looked like. The historical significance and artistic value of the bridge was essentially ruined.

                            The condition of the 1,000-year-old white pagoda has been degrading continuously; there are currently 18 obvious cracks in its surface and hundreds of holes. Its tower leans and bricks occasionally fall from its structure. Confusingly, local authorities had submitted a restoration plan in 2013, which was then put on ice. Applications for maintenance work has been in process for seven years, and repairs are delayed.

                            This was just the latest incidence of failure in addressing the appropriate forms protection of cultural heritage items throughout China. The local authorities’ failure to perform their duties to protect cultural sites has provoked public outrage. Restoration should follow the principle of interfering “as much as necessary and as little as possible” so that items of cultural heritage continue to bear resemblance to their original state following restoration work. However, disastrous restoration projects were still implemented on the Yuan Dynasty bridge in Shanxi Province, which has caused people to ask, “What was in their mind? How could they approve such a restoration plan?” Meanwhile, as a major national cultural site, maintenance work of the Liao Dynasty pagoda has been stuck in administration for seven years, while the tower is steadily eroding to a crumbling ruin. What is more ridiculous is that the plan of stabilizing the tower’s remaining structure has been approved by the national authorities, but local authorities stated they had never heard of the approval.

                            The problem comes down to local authorities’ lack of attention to the protection of cultural relics as well as a lack of awareness to their value. The failure of protection of cultural relics is also associated with the pursuit of instant benefits by local authorities. Sometimes, whether a cultural relic can be treated seriously and continue to be well preserved depends on the economic or political benefits that it can bring to the locality. This is a general problem that all protectors of cultural relics are facing. In China, 83.3 percent of immovable cultural relics were scattered over vast spaces of the countryside. If people only focus on how to obtain instant benefits from cultural relics instead of taking forward-looking measures, or, if they only pay attention to items of significant value or items located in key regions, items of cultural heritage that are scattered around and poorly looked after will ultimately disappear some day.


                            The article was edited and translated from Guangming Daily.



                            (Edited and translated by Ren Guanhong) 


                            Editor: Yu Hui

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