Yuanmingyuan rebuilding gets mixed response

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-09-25 07:41

A plan to rebuild part of the Yuanmingyuan (the old Summer Palace) Park has met with mixed public response.

The park's management office said it is planning to rebuild a palace gate before the end of this year.

Zong Tianliang, spokesman for the office, said the project will take a year to complete and will be "a loyal copy of the original gate".

But many fear construction of the gate might destroy some the historic remains.

Yuanmingyuan is regarded as a symbol to remind Chinese people of the shameful history of the 19th century when China was bullied by Western countries.

What visitors see in the park today is mostly the ruins left from a fire that the British and French troops set after plundering countless treasures from the royal garden in 1860.

More than half of the 2,300 netizens who responded to a poll on sina.com on Monday were against the rebuilding project.

About 54 percent agreed that rebuilding the gate would destroy some historical relics, and protecting what "remains is the best solution".

"Yuanmingyuan as it stands today is the best material for patriotic education. Rebuilding will not only cost money, but also probably make people forget part of history," a netizen said.

However, 44 percent agreed it was necessary to restore the exquisite imperial garden to its former glory, described as a masterpiece in Chinese classical garden art.

Researchers said the Yuanmingyuan, a general name for three royal gardens built and expanded in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), used to cover nearly 350 hectares and consisted of 100 buildings of different styles, including European and southern China.

"Rebuilding part of the garden and showing visitors the comparison can also educate people," another netizen said.

Zong said the rebuilding is part of the Yuanmingyuan Ruins Planning project, which was approved by the municipal government and the State Administration of Cultural Heritage in 2000.

The planning agreed to rebuild no more than 10 percent of the original royal garden.

Currently the park has only three rebuilt structures - a European-style maze, a pavilion and the palace gate of Qichunyuan.

Some experts have said that a rebuilt Yuanmingyuan would still be incomplete without all its lost treasures. A bronze horse head looted from the garden was recently sold for $8.84 million and returned to China.

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