Han Dynasty tombs strengthen cultural exchanges and tourism

By Li Yang ( China Daily ) Updated: 2017-05-15 08:01:12

Central authorities recently approved Hepu's overall protection plan of its more than 20,000 Han Dynasty (206 BC - AD 220) tombs.

According to the county government, the plans involve building a national archeological park in the protected area where the Han Dynasty tombs are concentrated. The government of Hepu, in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, intends to apply to UNESCO to list the tombs as world cultural heritage.

The tombs were classified as a State Protected Historic Site in 1996.

"These tombs are cultural relics, rare in China and the world for their rich storage of burial objects, and are testimony not only showing Hepu's splendid history as an international trade hub, but also the prosperity of the ancient maritime Silk Road," said Lian Shiming, director of the Hepu Han Dynasty Cultural Museum.

Han Dynasty tombs strengthen cultural exchanges and tourism

Another two Han Dynasty cultural relics are located in the area, one in Caoxie village where a group of ancient pottery kilns were discovered, and another in Dalang ancient town, where ruins of a former Hepu Port were unearthed. Both came under the protection of the central government in 2013.

The government said that if Hepu's Han Dynasty cultural heritage, a brand of international influence, can be recognized as world cultural heritage, it will effectively boost local tourism and further distinguish the area as an ancient cultural and trade center in South China.

Government data show that Hepu hosts about 5 million tourists a year, with tourism revenue accounting for nearly 20 percent of the county's economy.

The Belt and Road Initiative spurred Hepu to submit its overall protection plan to the higher authorities.

The national initiative involves the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and was proposed by President Xi Jinping during his visit to Kazakhstan and Indonesia in 2013.

Guangxi Party chief Peng Qinghua visited the Hepu Han Dynasty Cultural Museum in July 2014, listening to the county government's report on the plans.

Beihai Party chief Wang Ke reported the plans to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage in April 2016.

The county government has graded the items of protection and clarified the scope of the project.

Aside from the tombs, local authorities are also paying close attention to protecting the surrounding environment, strictly controlling construction and farming near the tombs.

"Having worked in Hepu for 19 years, I'm impressed with the local villagers who do not steal or plunder the valuable cultural relics found in the ancient tombs. They are simply very happy and cooperative with our archaeological work and cultural relics protection. They are pure and honest," Lian said.

Currently, the museum's Han Dynasty cultural relics are being exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where they will be displayed from March to July.

The Hepu museum organized similar exhibitions in Hong Kong in 2015 and 2016.

Lian said he hopes the international cultural exchanges will enable more people from around the world to learn about Hepu's Han Dynasty culture as well as wider Chinese culture.

(China Daily 05/15/2017 page34)

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