Plan to raze ancient temple in Xi'an panned

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An ancient Buddhist temple that holds the remains of noted Chinese monk Xuan Zang will be partially demolished and rebuilt with a new and prettier look under an application for the title of World Cultural Heritage Site.

The main gate of Xingjiao Temple [file photo]

In China, the title usually means much higher ticket prices and more tourism tax income for local government.

Authorities in Shaanxi Province in July 2012 included Xingjiao Temple, built about 1,300 years ago in the provincial capital Xi'an, in a bundled application for treasures of the Silk Road, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported yesterday.

Temple authorities later found they were trapped in a dilemma because they were told three months later that two-thirds of the buildings, involving around 80 rooms including monks' dormitories and a dining hall, were scheduled to be pulled down to make room for greenery.

Some historical relics, such as Xuan Zang's portraits, were to be removed.

Shaanxi was the easternmost part of the Silk Road, an ancient trading route that linked Xi'an to Parthia in northeastern Iran and further west. Xuan Zang had traveled along the northern part of the route on his pilgrimage to India in search of Buddhist holy scriptures in the early Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

In January, the temple proposed to withdraw the application because the large-scale reconstruction would severely impact monks' lives and destroy relics.

"We support the application, but we hope not to change the original layout as far as possible," the temple said in a statement.

But local authorities rejected the appeal because the reconstruction is aimed at revitalizing the temple's appearance in order for it to obtain the title, the paper reported.

"Dismantling part of the temple is to make for a better environment. It only affects monks' lives temporarily, not severely." Zhang Ning, director of Chang'an District Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau, told the newspaper. "But experts haven't approved the plan."

According to a blueprint in the hands of some government officials, only three towers of the temple would remain and other buildings would be demolished, said temple abbot Kuan Chi. A total of 46 local families will be relocated to make room for a new temple for the monks, the paper reported.

Netizens said authorities looked at the temple just as a money tree and neglected its historical values.

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