2008-07-01 00:59:49 GMT 2008-07-01 08:59:49 (Beijing Time) China Daily
A worker puts up a scaffold to help restore the ancient Nanqiao Bridge yesterday as part of restoration efforts in Dujiangyan, Sichuan province, after the May 12 quake in the province damaged many of the items and structures.(Photo Source: China Daily)
BEIJING, July 1 -- Liu Zhaoxue, an 80-year-old farmer from the western suburbs of Chengdu, forced himself out of bed at 6 am yesterday.
He took a long-distance bus for nearly an hour to Dujiangyan, 55 km away, so that he could witness the launch of the reconstruction of the Fulong and Erwang temples.
The structures were just two of numerous cultural relics damaged in the 8.0-magnitude quake that hit the province on May 12.
The reconstruction of the two temples, supported with 100 million yuan ($14.6 million) from the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, marked the start of Sichuan's post-quake reconstruction of damaged cultural relics, said the chief of the cultural relic section of the Sichuan provincial department of culture, Zhu Xiaonan.
Sixty-five cultural relics under State protection and 119 under provincial protection in Sichuan have been severely damaged as a result of the earthquake. A total of 1,839 museum relics, 191 of which were regarded as precious, have been ruined in the province.
According to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, the Erwang Temple and Mount Qingcheng were among the hardest hit.
On Mount Qingcheng, the birthplace of Taoism, China's only indigenous religion, several ancient buildings are in danger of collapsing. Sixteen kilometers from Dujiangyan, the mountain has been known since ancient times as "the most tranquil place under heaven". It also serves as a summer resort for people in Sichuan trying to escape the scorching heat.
Including other regions that were hit by the 8.0-magnitude quake in Sichuan, a total of 169 cultural relic sites under State protection and 250 provincial-level ones in seven provinces and municipalities suffered damages of various degrees. In total, 2,766 relics were damaged, of which 292 were considered very precious.
About 6 billion yuan ($875 million) will be needed to renovate and protect the cultural relics sites damaged nationwide in the quake, said Shan Jixiang, chief of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.
It would take at least five years to restore and rebuild the damaged relics in the quake-hit areas, Shan said.
Since childhood, Liu has visited the Dujiangyan Irrigation Project every April, to pay his respects to Li Bing, an engineer of the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) remembered by generations of farmers for his contributions to irrigation.
"I am glad the temples honoring Liu will be restored," Liu told China Daily.
Two millennia ago, the area suffered from incessant flooding of the Minjiang River, a tributary of the Yangtze River, during the summer months, while it was stricken with drought in winter.
Li Bing, the Sichuan governor at that time, started harnessing the Minjiang River by starting the Dujiangyan Irrigation Project around 256 BC.
When the project was completed, it fed a grid of irrigation canals that watered 160,000 hectares of arable land in the Chengdu Plain. That area has since increased to 670,000 hectares.
The plain has stayed more or less free of floods and drought for more than 2,000 years, and has earned Sichuan the reputation of being a "land of abundance". The Chengdu Plain has remained one of China's most important agricultural regions for centuries.
In the absence of a dam, experts have hailed the project as one of the world's most impressive hydraulic engineering projects. Together with Mount Qingcheng in Dujiangyan, the project was listed as a World Cultural Heritage of the United Nations in 2000.
To commemorate Li's contributions, the ancient Chinese built the two temples in present-day Lidui Park.
Fulong Temple was built in AD168. Fulong means "suppress the dragon" in Chinese. Legend has it that Li subjugated an evil dragon during the construction of Dujiangyan.
The stone statue of Li, displayed in the front courtyard of the temple, was carved during the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220).
The other temple, Erwang, translates into Chinese as "the Temple of Two Kings". Located on the mountain on the right bank of the Minjiang River, it was built to commemorate Li and his son. The temple, first built 2,000 years ago, has seen many renovations with its present architectural style being that of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
While part of the buildings in Fulong Temple including the glass encircling the stone statue of Li was destroyed, Erwang Temple collapsed entirely from the quake.
Fortunately, records for the precise location, length, width and height of each temple's building component have survived the quake. The records have proven invaluable for the reconstruction of the structures.
The reconstruction plans of Fulong Temple were formulated by Beijing's Tsinghua University, while the Quanzhou Citong Ancient Building Company in Fujian province and Cultural Relic Protection and Research Design Center of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region will manage the reconstruction in line with Tsinghua's plan. Both were chosen from 152 design institutions nationwide.
"The reconstruction of Fulong Temple is expected to be completed within six months," said Zhang Xianwen, chief of the Guangxi center.
"Each brick or tile must be retrieved from the ruins and will be used in the reconstruction so that the temple will look the same as before," he said.
About 50 workers from his center started working on Fulong Temple yesterday, while the clearing of the debris at the Erwang Temple is still under way.
"The temple's reconstruction will be carried out after the debris is cleared. It will take between two and three years to rebuild," said Zheng Xiaoxing, chief of the Sichuan provincial department of culture.
Because Erwang Temple, covering some 12,000 sq m, was built on the mountain, experts have also had to consider the possibility of landslides.
"If landslides occur, we will have to reinforce the mountain," said Lu Zhou, chief of the Cultural Heritage Protection and Research Institute of Tsinghua University.
"Modern construction concepts will be introduced in the reconstruction so that it can resist a strong earthquake in the future, if necessary," Lu said.