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Protect cultural heritage | Updated: 2012-11-12 14:03

It is a topic that is often talked about, but the protection of the nation's cultural heritage is still worth public discourse.

In a joint declaration after their meeting in Changsha, capital of Central China's Hunan province, at the weekend, the authorities in charge of 11 ancient towers called for greater efforts to preserve cultural heritage.

One of the headaches all the towers face is that the growing number of visitors eager to encounter the past, which is putting a heavy toll on the structures.

The head of the Drum and Bell Tower in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province, said there were worries the 600-year-old tower would collapse because of the flood of visitors during the recent National Day holidays.

Nationwide, while more visitors are attracted to sites of historical interest, the number of historical sites has been declining over the last two decades.

This contradiction is largely because local governments have let the age or importance of historical sites make way for realty or urban renovation projects. As a result, quite a number of buildings of historical interest have been demolished in the name of development.

Authorities in charge of the ancient towers lamented the fact that most of the towers have lost their original surroundings as well as the sense of the environment in which the towers functioned as timekeepers.

Had local leaders and planners had enough vision and showed enough respect for cultural heritage, ancient streets, even ancient neighborhoods, and many more sites of historical interest would still stand.

Urbanization will still go on and the country needs economic growth to create enough jobs to further improve people's lives. But at the same time, we need to strike a balance between urban renovation and expansion and the protection of cultural heritage.

And it is not just centuries-old towers that need to be protected, some buildings from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and even early last century should be kept intact along with their surroundings, so they may serve as symbols of specific times and reminders of some historical events and periods of history.

People often say that we should never cut short history or that we should have a historical perspective. This is also true when it comes to urban planning and renovation.

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