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Beijing launches massive relics revamp
By Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-14 23:43

Zhengyangmen, the highest ancient gate tower opposite the Forbidden City with Tian'amen Square lying in between, will undergo the most complete renovation in almost a century, according to the Beijing Cultural Relics Bureau.

Relic protection workers have found a couple of cracks on the gate tower, which is more than 500 years old.

The renovation of this tower is just part of the unprecedented large-scale renovation of old buildings in the capital city. Other famous sites being renovated include the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Ming Tombs.

Wang Yuwei, an official with the bureau, said these cracks will not threaten the gate tower's basic structure.

"We are examining the entire structure of the gate tower and will draw up a plan of rehabilitation by the end of this year. If everything goes smoothly, the repairs will start before June next year," said Wang.

The gate tower, also known as Qianmen or Front Gate, lies on Beijing's north-south central axis running through the Imperial Palace. It was the route ancient emperors took when they went to the Temple of Heaven to make offerings.

Wang said the repairs on Zhengyangmen would probably be the latest project carried out so far along the city's central axis -- the fundamental layout of ancient Beijing.

He said dozens of sites of cultural heritage stand symmetrically along the axis. To renovate these sites as well as surrounding landscapes is the key to showcasing Beijing's splendid culture and long history.

"We have rebuilt the Yongdingmen and repaired the Drum and Bell Tower, which are located at the southern and northern tips of the axis. Other important buildings along the axis, including the imperial halls in the Forbidden city, have also undergone thorough overhauls," said Wang.

Besides the repairs along the axis, almost all of the other heritage sites around the city -- including ancient temples, war-ravaged imperial gardens, buildings, city walls and imperial tombs -- have undergone or are going to receive repairs before 2008, said Wang.

"Beijing has entered an era of unprecedentedly massive heritage renovation. The annual investment in relic protection in recent years almost equals to that of the 1990s," said Wang.

Between 2000 and 2003, Beijing has seen a record 3 billion yuan (US$360 million) ploughed into the preservation of its historical and cultural relics.

Almost 100 cultural relics, such as the Baita Temple, the city wall of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Changpu River, have received a new lease of life thanks to the investment from the municipal and district governments.

A further 100-odd heritage sites are expected to be revamped up to 2007, among which, the repairs on 30 sites have already started this year, said Wang.

These 30 cultural relics include the city's six World Cultural Heritage sites -- the Peking Man Ruins at Zhoukoudian, the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City and the Ming Tombs.

"Besides the repairs on scattered heritage sites, we are also paying more attention to protecting the old city as a whole," said Wang.

"Our focus is turning to the protection of original cultural environment and landscapes, which are indispensable to the cultural and historical significance of the heritage sites," said Wang.

He said the city has listed 40 areas as Historical and Cultural Protection Zones. No construction will be undertaken in a protected area unless it gets approval from the cultural relics administrations.

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