Home / Major earthquake slams SW China / Latest updates Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read | Comment
Museum's treasures saved
Adjust font size:

Zhang Sufen, 96, has never in her life ever experienced anything like the Sichuan earthquake. She was alone at home at the time of the disaster, and managed to make her way down from her fourth floor flat to safety.

"I'm fine - I still drink a tiny cup of liquor every day," the great-great-grandmother said in her tent at Jiangyou's Li Bai Memorial Museum. "My family is fine too. We're good here."

And so are the treasures of our museum, Zhang's eldest son Zheng Siyong, a 76-year-old landscape artist, said. He is one of the museum's founding members.

Jiangyou is the hometown of Li Bai (AD701-762), China's greatest poet of romanticism who was said to have been born and raised in city. In recent years, Jiangyou has been aggressively promoting what is known as the "Li Bai culture" so as to make itself known to the outside world.

The quake has set back this effort, although it did not destroy as many buildings in the city as others in the more severely-hit regions.

Guo Xinglong, chief of the museum, said about 60 percent of the museum's buildings were damaged within minutes after the disaster struck resulting in a loss of some 40 million yuan ($5.8 million). But thanks to timely efforts, only a few of the museum's more than 4,000 antiquities, and 318 national treasures, were harmed.

The pillars of a building where most of the museum's collection was housed were damaged and the roof caved in about 20 cm, Guo said. Staff stood outside the building for 24 hours to guard the treasures.

It was not until noon of May 13 they had their first meal - porridge boiled in rainwater.

As the days went by, the danger of losing the artifacts - 80 percent of them calligraphy and others wrapped in paper - gradually escalated with the constant rainfall.

By May 19, when more heavy showers for Jiangyou, was predicted, Guo could wait no longer. With police guarding the site, he and six men entered the damaged buildings to transfer the relics.

Six hours later, when the men managed to move out all the artifacts, worth about 2 billion yuan, Guo's 79-year-old father called to tell him that their house had collapsed in a strong aftershock.

Although the relics have been saved, the museum will have to be rebuilt or relocated to another site. Reconstruction plans are being discussed, and will likely be implemented within two to three years.

But for other Li Bai memorial sites throughout the city, more time will be needed.

Although there was talk of reopening some of Sichuan's tourism sites, Doutuan Mountain, a popular attraction, remained closed on Sunday due to the fear of landslides.

About 30 km away, the walls of a building inside the Taibai Memorial Complex were damaged. The complex was built during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and remains Jiangyou's most ancient site in commemoration of the great poet.

And in the city center, a Li Bai statue was damaged. Part of the statute is being used as a support for tents surrounding it.

Despite the loss, Zheng said he was optimistic about the future. Both he and his mother agree that the rescue and construction efforts by the government and the Li Bai memorial museum staff were praiseworthy.

(China Daily June 17, 2008)

Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read Bookmark and Share
Pet Name
China Archives
Related >>
- Rebuilding homes is top priority for quake relief cash
- Voice: NGOs take the stage in China
- Disaster law to reflect experience
- Preventing secondary disasters an urgent task
- Preventing secondary disasters an urgent task