Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Short Sighted Policies: Destruction of Archaeological Sites in China

I can't begin to tell you how much this pisses me off!  Once lost, this heritage is gone forever.  We can never, ever EVER get it back.

From Popular Archaeology
Census Declares Thousands of China’s Heritage Sites “Disappeared”
By Heritage on the Wire Tue, Feb 07, 2012

The results are in from China’s most recent national heritage census — the first in more than 20 years — and they’re not good.

According to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH), around 44,000 of China’s 766,722 registered heritage sites have completely disappeared, while approximately a quarter of those remaining are either “poorly preserved” or “in a state of disrepair.” No sites were specifically mentioned in the census, but the study included ancient ruins, temples and other cultural relics.

According to Liu Xiaohe, deputy director of the survey, economic construction is among the biggest reasons for the destruction. Many of the vanished sites were completely unprotected or ignored by protection units overseeing national and provincial cultural relics, thereby allowing their demolition in favor of construction projects. In addition, some heritage sites were destroyed without explanation.

Meanwhile, a recent Guardian article reported on the increasingly sophisticated looting gangs that have devastated China’s heritage sites, with a national network of as many as 100,000 looters working to serve international dealers and collectors. According to the report, the thieves use dynamite and sometimes bulldozers to break into the ruins, then search and pillage using night vision goggles and oxygen canisters.

One archaeologist whose teams researched more than 900 tombs in Shaanxi province found that almost every one had been raided. (The SACH survey additionally deemed Shaanxi province the hardest-hit region, with more than 3,500 cultural sites having vanished.)

“Before, China had a large number of valuable ancient tombs, and although it was really depressing to see a tomb raided, it was still possible to run into a similar one in the future,” said Wei Zheng, a Peking University archaeologist, in the Guardian article. “Nowadays too many have been destroyed. Once one is raided, it is really difficult to find a similar one.”

Reports like these appear in stark contrast to China’s recently adopted guideline to promote cultural development. Although the guideline focused mainly on boosting China’s soft power and producing new movies, music, books and art, the tragic loss of thousands of cultural relics does not correlate with cultural development.

News Source: Global Heritage Fund
See more about the Global Heritage Fund at www.globalheritagefund.org.

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