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Walking the path to restoration

By Francois Dubé | China Daily | Updated: 2016-11-02 07:29

The restoration saga

Over the years, despite its robust construction, the tower has been severely damaged and continues to face serious threats to its survival.

The second floor of the pagoda is the most seriously affected, with 32 of its pillars sustaining serious damage. Experts have discovered that the tower is leaning slightly to the northeast, a situation which is worsening with every passing year.

As a protective measure, only the first and second floors are now open to the public and the number of people allowed in the pagoda at any one time has been limited.

In 1961, the pagoda became part of Shanxi's first batch of national key relic protection units.

But serious attention to its protection was not given until 1989, when the Chinese government discussed the possibility of restoring the wooden tower.

In 1991, an expert group was set up by China's National Heritage Board, which made a series of recommendations to protect the tower.

However, these suggestions went largely unheeded until November 2010, when the Shanxi provincial government officially started the application process to grant the pagoda UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

In 2013, a new plan was drawn up and renovation work finally began in December 2014 with a budget of 7 million yuan ($1.14 million), after a nearly 25-year delay.

According to local authorities, the delay was due in part to the fact that such renovation work could negatively impact on the UNESCO application process. "For long years, nobody dared to restore it because everyone was afraid it would fall down", explained Wang Xiaohai, a local tour guide in Yingxian county.

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