China welcomes international assistance to help repair cultural relics damaged by the May 12 earthquake, a senior official said yesterday.
Tong Mingkang, deputy director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, has been visiting key sites in Sichuan province to assess the extent of damage.
The repair work will cost at least 6 billion yuan ($867 million) and take five years to complete, he said.
"We welcome help from overseas to restore quake damaged relics," he said.
The administration has already received offers of assistance from some experts from foreign countries, Tong said.
The International Council on Monuments and Sites is a Paris-based nongovernmental organization "dedicated to the conservation of the world's historic monuments and sites," according to its website.
The council's vice-president, Kristal Buckley, has pledged her support, Tong said.
"She said she would be available to give help anytime we need her," he said.
Previously Kristal Buckley assisted Pakistan with the restoration of heritage sites following the 7.6-magnitude earthquake that struck south Asia in 2005.
While traveling in Sichuan, Tong met a farmer whose family lives by a damaged ancient church in the city of Pengzhou. "He told me his family had deep feelings for the church" and hoped it would be repaired soon," Tong said.
"I believe restoring the relics will in a way heal victims who are shocked by the quake," he said.
Efforts will be made to collect every brick and tile from the damaged buildings in Sichuan and use them in the reconstruction, he said.
"Therefore, the relics will be pretty much the same as they were before the quake."
Restoration work has already begun at some sites that sustained relatively minor damages, he said.
But larger undertakings - including repairs to the famous 2,000-year-old Erwang Temple, or "Temple of Two Kings," in the city of Dujiangyan - will not begin until later this month or early next month, he said.
The government is also updating its national registry of cultural and historic relics. The most recent survey, conducted 20 years ago, lists approximately 400,000 such relics.
"We started a new survey last year," Tong said.
(China Daily June 12, 2008)