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Work to save Three Gorges relics well under way
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Zhangfei Temple in Chongqing. Heritage conservation is well under way at the Three Gorges dam in preparation for the rise of the water level from 156 m to 175 m. [File Photo]

Heritage conservation is well under way at the Three Gorges dam in preparation for the rise of the water level from 156 m to 175 m.

Measures will be taken amid the township's displacement, building dismantlement, and garbage removal, to conserve delicate artifacts and rare cultural remains, officials said.

The reservoir water level has risen in stages since the 2,309-m-long dam was erected in 2003. Fears have been expressed that the rise in water in the world's largest hydropower project to the scheduled maximum height of 175 m above sea level will further damage ancient sites and rare cultural remains.

"Protecting cultural relics and historical treasures is of paramount importance," Wang Chuanping, curator of the Three Gorges Museum in Chongqing, said.

"Archaeologists and builders are busy with their assigned projects, but both feel time is pressing in view of the many cultural relics warranting protection," he said.

Cultural relics, tombs and architecture that have been uncovered are of inestimable academic value, Wang said. Archaeologists have so far prospected the 10 million sq m to be submerged and excavated historical relics from a 1.2 million sq m area within it.

Tombs they discovered date back to the Warring States Period (457 BC - 221 BC) as well as the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

Relics excavated include pottery, ceramics, ironware, copperware and silverware. They provide enormous insight into the social economic situation, everyday life and funeral rites in the area during the Warring States Period and Qin (221-206 BC) and Eastern and Western Han (206 BC - AD 220) dynasties.

Four relics under national-level protection: Zhangfei Temple, Dachang Ancient Town, Baiheliang, and Shibaozhai, will also be submerged.

Projects to relocate the Zhangfei Temple and Dachang Ancient Town have so far been completed.

The 400-year-old Shibaozhai wooden building, built on the slope of a steep hill, is being dismantled and moved to higher ground. It is expected to open by the end of the year.

Baiheliang, China's oldest hydrologic station, however, will remain on its original site as an underwater museum, the main section of which has been completed. The whole heritage conservation project, involving 64 archaeological teams whose work it is to save 829 cultural relics, is the largest of its kind in the world.

(China Daily/Xinhua News Agency September 3, 2008)

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