Exchanges key to heritage protection
(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-09-25 14:36

NANJING: Exchanges and co-operation are effective ways of dealing with the issues of cultural heritage preservation and economic development.

This was the message from participants at a forum at the 2006 Historical and Cultural Cities Expo, currently taking place in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province.

The expo is being sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Construction, and has been organized by Nanjing city government.

"Rapid development powered by high economic growth rates has posed serious problems for the preservation of cultural and historic relics in our cities," said Jiang Hongkun, mayor of Nanjing.

One of the best ways to solve the problem is to hold talks and share experiences among nations with rich cultural heritages, said Zhang Xinsheng, chairman of the China Committee for UNESCO.

Altogether 53 mayors from 13 countries attended the forum.

They came from Berne of Switzerland, Los Angeles, Jeonju of the Republic of Korea, Florence of Italy, the UK's Birmingham and many other cities.

"Our greatest potential was the loving care shown by people towards their city, and this affection remained steadfast even when other places in the world were being ruthlessly modernized," said Alexander Tschappat, mayor of Berne.

Historical sites are well protected in some countries and cities, said Tschappat. However, he added, many old cities and towns across the world have been damaged or destroyed due to people's indifference.

"It is sad that many people don't know the significance of preserving treasures that can tell us about the evolution of civilization and link the past with the present," said He Huazhang, vice-mayor of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, whose city has been trying to preserve important sites.

In China, where the economy has been developing at an unprecedented speed over the past 20 years, some local governments have attached more importance to economic growth than protecting cultural heritage.

Mayors at the forum recognized that cultural exchanges over the years have helped people of different cultures provide each other with preservation experiences.

Many Chinese cities have formed ties with hundreds of foreign cities and cultural exchanges have been going on continuously.

A good example is the exhibition of "Genghis Khan: Treasures of Inner Mongolia" in Los Angeles, organized by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County with the help of China's central government and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

"The greatest benefit was the historical education gained by our school children and museum visitors about Chinese history," said Michael Antonovich, Los Angeles County Supervisor.

At the forum, mayors signed the "Nanjing Declaration," that aims for the preservation and sensible use of important cultural sites.

(China Daily 09/25/2006 page3)