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Walking the path to restoration

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

Delicate balance

According to a county official, protecting cultural relics while using them to develop the tourism industry is inherently contradictory, and striking a balance has proven difficult.

The positive side is that tourism can raise awareness of the need to protect cultural heritage and generate income for restoring and better protecting local relics. However, the exploitation of cultural relics will inevitably lead to their destruction.

Before the start of restoration work on the wooden pagoda, several complaints were made by pilgrims and media regarding the administration of the pagoda and local protection efforts.

Until 2010, the use of candles was allowed inside the pagoda, which exposed it to the risk of fire and was very much contrary to the philosophy of local heritage protection.

The fact that the pagoda itself was used for various commercial activities was also considered inappropriate in view of the fact that pilgrims consider it a sacred place.

Currently, decisions related to repair and restoration work, access to the pagoda and the financing of restoration work are made entirely at the national level by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, which has resolved some of the previous administrative problems.

There is little question that in the absence of adequate and timely restoration programs, cultural relics such as the pagoda will inevitably deteriorate, making it impossible to either develop the local tourism industry or undertake heritage conservation.

"When I was young, I could have gone up to the very top of the wooden pagoda, but I didn't. Now I can't go up, because the top floors are closed," says local tour guide Wang. "What a pity."

The author, from Canada, is a Beijing-based journalist. He is a member of "Shanxi in the eyes of international friends."

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