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Efforts enhanced to preserve rare ancient characters
2007-04-08 15:41:11 Xinhua English

GUIYANG, April 9 (Xinhua) -- A county in southwest China's Guizhou Province is working on new regulations to better preserve endangered ancient "Shuishu," the peculiar pictographic characters of the Shui ethnic group.

As the peculiar characters used by the ancient Shui ethnic group, Shuishu is in danger of being lost as most of the Shui people do not know how to read the characters any longer.

People who still know how to read Shuishu are usually wizards of the Shui ethnic group. They preserved most existing books written in Shuishu which have been passed down only to a single descendant within families.

In this sense, Shuishu is regarded as a "living fossil" of the Shui ethnic group as books written in Shuishu had recorded encyclopedic contents about the ancient Shui ethnic group, including astronomy, geography, religion, folk-custom, ethics, philosophy, aesthetics and law.

In March 2002, Shuishu was listed in the China Archive Heritage chosen by the State Archive Administration of China. Since then, great efforts have been made by the central and local cultural protection departments to protect the endangered characters.

Currently, the people of Sui ethnic group, numbered approximately 407, 000, live on the Yunnan and Guizhou Plateau in southwest China. The Sandu county, the only autonomous county of Shui ethnic group in China, has most of the Shui population in the country, or 52 percent.

Sandu county has allocated more than 100,000 yuan (12,500 U.S. dollars) each year for the translation and protection of Shuishu books over recent years.

"The county government issued a circular on saving the endangered Shuishu books in 2005, yet it is still hard to prevent Shuishu from losing," said Pan Zhongxi, director of the Culture Studies Institute of Shui Ethnic Group in the Sandu county.

"Therefore, the county decided to pass new regulations on the basis of the circular and add penalty measures to it to enhance efforts for the protection of the Shuishu," Pan said.

According to the new regulations, government staff members will be imposed administrative penalties or even prosecuted if the books are lost due to their abuse of power or negligence of duty.

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