Cultural heritage not spared

By Zhu Linyong (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-05-14 07:36

Priceless artifacts and buildings of the country's cultural heritage were seriously damaged by the 7.8-magnitude quake in Sichuan on Monday, local officials and experts have said.

A 12-story Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) pagoda in Langzhong, Sichuan Province stands damaged by the 7.8-magnitude quake on Monday. [China Daily] 

Among the worst hit were the 32-m-high Ming Dynasty pagoda (1368-1644) in Langzhong county of Nanchong, and the exterior of the Museum of the Sanxingdui Ruins.

"The 400-year-old pagoda broke into half during the Monday earthquake," Deng Changwen, a spokesman for the Sichuan Provincial Seismological Bureau, told reporters.

The top of the 12-story pagoda, a landmark in the city, fell to the ground minutes after the quake hit, he said.

In the Jinsha Ruins Museum in western suburban Chengdu, a small amount of ancient pots in the No 2 Exhibition Hall of the museum were smashed by the quake but other exhibits such as bronzeware, goldware and ivory works remained intact, museum director Wang Fei told China Daily via cell phone.

On Tuesday, the museum withdrew key items from exhibition halls and put them in storage, Wang said.

"The open space outside the museum has turned into a haven for over a thousand local residents who are putting up here," Wang said.

Wall sections of the Sanxingdui Ruins museum in Guanghan county, about 40 km north of Chengdu, were also damaged, said Lei Yu, an expert in cultural heritage maintenance at the museum.

"Some 20 sets of 3,000-4,000-year-old ceramic utensils on display on the second and third floors of the museum hall fell to the ground and were shattered. Fortunately, the bronzeware in the museum remain intact", Lei told China Daily by phone.

Surveying work started yesterday to find out how major cultural heritage items in the province were affected by the disaster, Hao Benxing, an official with the Sichuan provincial administration on cultural heritage, told China Daily via phone.

However, "the results will not come within days due to the shortage in manpower, traffic disruptions in hard-hit areas and unstable telecommunication networks after the quake," he said.

In the hard-hit areas of Chengdu, Mianyang, Aba and Deyang that include 39 counties and cities, there are at least one World Cultural Heritage site (Dujiangyan Waterworks), 49 Key Cultural Heritage items under State Protection and 225 key cultural heritage items under provincial protection.

Local authorities in Sichuan and neighboring regions have been urged to take measures to protect cultural heritage items in the quake-hit region, an emergency circular issued by State Administration of Cultural Heritage stated on Monday afternoon, soon after the quake hit.

"Damaged buildings, museums and heritage sites must be sealed off for the safety of staff and visitors, the circular said.

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