The famous ancient town of Dachang is the only well preserved historical site in the Three Gorges area. The ancient wall around the town can still be recognized, and its four gates are still standing. In the town, the flagstone paved roads and buildings feature styles of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, according to Beijing Review.
Two years ago, a red line was drawn at the top of the town wall to mark the point at which the water will rise when the Three Gorges Reservoir, the world's largest water works, begins to store water in 2003. By then, the walled town of Dachang, with the biggest complex of ancient structures in the region will have been submerged.
The State Administration of Cultural Heritage has launched a huge protection plan—investing 30 million yuan to move the 1,700-year-old town. "It will be a wonder in the world in the protection of ancient buildings," said Liu Yuchang, who is working on the rescue of cultural relics in the Three Gorges area.
It's a huge and complicated task. Dozens of experts from the China Cultural Relics Research Institute and other departments decided on the relocation plan after elaborate discussions.
Architects will demolish Dachang's ancient buildings one by one, marking each brick, each tile, and each section of them. These building materials will then be moved to a new site 5 km away, where the whole town is to be rebuilt according to its original form. Some original sections that cannot be removed entirely due to serious damage will be replaced with new materials. All buildings will be made termite and rust proof. The rebuilt Dachang Town will become a new tourist site that will certainly attract many visitors to the Three Gorges area.
As Liu Yuchang said, surgical operations may cure ailments, but can hurt the patient's body, and the removal of the old Dachang Town would damage the value of the town to some extent. "But we will try our best to avoid changing the style of the ancient town," he said. After Dachang's relocation, some former residents will still live in their homes, to preserve local folk customs.
When the Three Gorges Dam is completed in 2009, the water of the Reservoir will rise and submerge more than 1,100 towns, and over 1 million residents must be relocated from their original homes. Like Dachang, the towns of Xintan in Zigui county, Yangdu in Zhongxian County and Xituo in Shizhu will flooded.
According to plans, 224 most valuable ancient structures in the flooded area will be protected. Among them, 65 percent are residentral buildings, of which homes and 118 buildings will be relocated.
Liu said those ancient towns, villages and residences have been preserved because they were remote and located in undeveloped regions. Some of them have fallen into disrepair. "We will protect these historical relics effectively using advanced technology and try our best to retain the ancient folklore and customs, because they are part of our civilization."
(People's Daily 07/31/2001)