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World Heritage

Saving ancient UNESCO heritage in China

Author: Luc Citrinot / Date: Mon, 09/03/2012 - 11:26

China will lift until next year a millennium-old monument threaten by future flooding, establishing a world record for this fragile recovery operation.

HUBEI - Wudang Mountains in Central China’s province of Hubei are well known for their extraordinary range of Taoist monasteries and palaces considered as some of the most exquisite pieces of architecture. Most of them are over thousand years and this classical architecture prompted UNESCO to declare the range of mountains a World Heritage Site in 1994. Yuzhengong Palace is one of the nine grand places in Wudang Mountains. Built some 600 years ago in memory to Zhang Sanfend, a legendary figure of Taoism and Tai Chi, it is now threatened by the nearby construction of the Danjiangkou Reservoir.

According to Xinhua, the reservoir is part of China’s solution to redistribute water from the South part of the country –prone to monsoon and flooding- into the North which suffers for many years of persistent drought. Thanks to the reservoir, the North will be able to receive regularly water but unfortunately, it might also cause a rise in water levels in the area. Standing at 165 meter over water, the Yuzhengong Palace is likely to be submerged.

Last Thursday, culture heritage authorities issued a statement to address public concerns regarding a protection project for the Palace. A Yuan 185-million (US$ 29 million) project is intended to physically lift the palace 15 meters above its current height. It was approved by SACH (State Administration of Cultural Heritage) in 2011 after multiple options were assessed, the statement said.

SACH responded to public doubts about the project's expense by stating that the funds used for the project will also cover the restoration and repair of cultural relics, as well as further excavation. Archaeologists have analyzed the site and kept records of all historical information contained inside, the statement said. By launching those protection measures from likely flooding, China will break a world record for lifting an ancient building.