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China to rebuild 100-year-old Catholic seminary  in Sichuan
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China will rebuild a 100-year-old Catholic seminary that was destroyed in the powerful earthquake in May on its original site in the southwestern Sichuan Province.

"Experts on ancient buildings from Beijing and Chengdu have started drawing up a reconstruction plan. Original building material will be used as much as possible to restore the seminary, " an official with the Sichuan provincial bureau of cultural relics protection told Xinhua on Saturday.

The cost and time for the reconstruction was not known yet.

The Bailu Upper Academy, the first Catholic seminary in southwest China, was built in 1908 in the Bailu Town, Pengzhou City of Sichuan. Most of the seminary was destroyed within eight seconds after the May 12 earthquake struck.

Rubble and broken pillars were all that was left. The seminary was previously a three-storey building covering 18,000 square meters, but only two percent of the building survived the quake, said residents.

They have now set up tents around the seminary and live in the ruins, as their homes were destroyed.

The local government earmarked an open field to store bricks, tiles, fences and other parts of the seminary, and appointed a local Catholic named Tang Min earlier this week to look after the remains around the clock.

Before Tang Min, the remains were guarded by soldiers who were there for disaster relief work.

"Not a single brick could be stolen, because they are all cultural relics," said Tang.

Hundreds of churches, temples and mosques have been toppled in Sichuan by the earthquake, and their reconstruction would take a long time, said Yu Xiaoheng, deputy director of the Sichuan provincial bureau of religion.

A total of 83 of all the 128 state-level cultural heritages suffered damages in the quake, including World Cultural Heritage Dujiangyan.

The State Administration of Cultural Heritage has ordered subordinate bureaus across the country to offer a hand in salvage and protection of culture relics in quake-hit regions.

(Xinhua News Agency June 22, 2008)

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