At a press conference sponsored by the State Council Information Office on September 10, Zhang Bai, vice director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, described the progress being made in the protection of the relics in the Three Gorges Dam area.
The level of protection being afforded to the relics in the area is unprecedented in China. Of the 1,087 cultural sites to be protected, 723 are underground while the remaining 364 are above the earthís surface. The protection of such large-scale relics requires considerable time and energy, said Zhang Bai.
At present, 690,000 square meters (171 acres) of underground excavation has been completed, accounting for 77 percent of the total work to be carried out in the second phase of the project, Zhang said.
The relicís protection project can be broadly divided into three parts: One, 144 items on which information must be collected throughout the program, of which 133 data items have been gathered; two, 87 items to be protected by local interest groups, of which 41 items have been recovered; three, 133 items to be entirely removed for further assessment and preservation, of which nearly half has been completed.
The work accomplished so far indicates that the two wards (Hubei Province and Chongqing Municipality) are able to fulfil predetermined objectives in the projectís second phase. As such the relicsí protection will not be subject to the threats posed by the impounding of water in the area. The achievements made in the protection of the relics are in preparation for the future damming of water in the Three Gorges.
Zhang reiterated that the relics protection work being conducted in the Three Gorges Dam area embodies three parts.
First, a set of significant scientific records has been unearthed through the excavation and protection work done over the past few years. Of the over 50,000 pieces of cultural remnants excavated in the past five years, more than 6,000 are regarded as holding significant scientific value. Some of the precious artefacts are thought to be totally unique to the region.
Second, great achievements have been made in the area of academic research. As an example, Zhang pointed to cultural artefacts from the Palaeolithic period found at over ten sites in the area, many of which are distinctive chopping tools unique to the southern China region.
Such finds can be used to study the regional differences between southern and northern China during the Palaeolithic era, an extremely significant archaeological accomplishment. Zhang Bai also pointed out that cultural relics from the Neolithic age were seldom found in Yangtze Riverís Three Gorges area. The excavation being carried out in Three Gorges area have unearthed many antiquities from the Neolithic age, filling a major gap of understanding in the academic arena.
Third, more scientific and technological tools than ever before have been used in protecting the relics in the Three Gorges area. In the past, protection of cultural ruins depended mainly on the traditional methods. However, the protection of the cultural relics in the Three Gorges area has been quite different. Taking the protection of the Fuling White Crane Beam Inscriptions in Chongqing as an example, pressure-fee containers are planned to be used for preserving the inscriptions of each individual item. Most of the archaeological excavations in Three Gorges area have also adopted digital technology, providing enormous advantages in the area of materials management.
According to Zhang Bai, the overall standard of protection being offered to the cultural relics of the Three Gorges area is first-rate. The Chinese government has attached great importance on the protection of these historically significant artefacts. Under the uniform guidance and planning of the Three Gorges Project Construction Committee, protection has been jointly carried out by the Hubei Province and Chongqing Municipality. The State Administration of Cultural Heritage has conducted an additional examination, offering supervision and guidance to ensure the requirements of the state are being meet. Professionals from all over the country have been assembled to assist in protection project.
(china.org.cn by Wang Qian and Wang Zhiyong, September 12, 2002)