Historical sites ruined in renovations

By LI FANGCHAO (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-06-11 06:39

A large number of historical architecture and cultural heritage sites have been destroyed during the country's rapid urbanization, a top official lamented yesterday.

Qiu Baoxing, vice-minister of construction, hit out at some local officials for their "senseless actions" that have "devastated" historical sites and cultural relics in the name of renovation.

The country's historical and cultural heritage is facing a third round of havoc since New China was founded in 1949, he noted.

The first two occurred during the "Great Leap Forward" movement in the late 1950s, and the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), when huge numbers of relics and sites of historical value were demolished, he added.

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"Some local officials seem to be altering the appearance of cities with the determination of 'moving the mountain and altering the water course'," he told a news briefing on the sidelines of an international conference on urban culture and city planning.

"They are totally unaware of the value of cultural heritage."

Qiu also slammed the "blind pursuit of large, new and exotic" buildings by some local governments.

"This is leading to a poor sight - many cities have a similar construction style. It is like a thousand cities having the same appearance," he said.

Tong Mingkang, deputy director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, agreed.

He lashed out at some local governments for their "reckless decision" to dismantle valuable historical sites which were in poor repair and erecting fake cultural relics at the site.

"It is like tearing up an invaluable painting and replacing it with a cheap print."

He also blamed long-time neglect by local governments for the fast deterioration of historical sites.

"If well protected, their value would grow as days go by," he said.

Qiu said that the country is revising the Town and Country Planning Act, which will prevent local officials from arbitrarily altering city planning.

Tong said that a 1-billion-yuan ($130 million), five-year nationwide survey on cultural relics has been launched to get a clearer picture of their status.

(China Daily 06/11/2007 page1)

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