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Relic Park Gets Go-ahead
A large-scale ancient ruin park at the site of the famed Terracotta Army -- described as a wonder of the world -- is to be built later this year in China's ancient capital of Xi'an.

The feasibility report on the construction of the park at the site of the mausoleum of the Qin (221-207 BC) Emperor Shihuang, China's first emperor, was approved by the State Council last month, and construction of the project will soon get under way, according to an official source with the Shaanxi Provincial Development and Reform Department.

The Terracotta Army and adjacent, but still unopened mausoleum of the emperor, is one of the nation's most important historic sites. A chance find by local farmers digging a well at the time of a devastating drought in the northwestern province of Shaanxi in the late 1970s was the first glimpse in over 2,000 years of the fabulous army, created for the emperor to take with him into the next world.

Archaeologists around the world were amazed by the unfolding discovery of thousands of terracotta soldiers, who have very different facial expressions, moulded, as they were, on living people. Terracotta horses and chariots were also discovered, which are adorned with intricate gold and brass trappings.

The actual tomb of the emperor buried deep in a hillside reputedly contains a lake and rivers of mercury, with a pearl embedded ceiling to form the galaxy. But what other wonders and treasures lie buried there remain a mystery. At present neither the technology nor the resources are available to safely excavate it without risking destruction of the contents and danger to life from the poisonous mercury.

With a total investment of 520 million yuan (US$62.7 million), the park project, designed to better protect and preserve the historic site, will focus on three major items. First, is the requisition of 193.5 hectares of land and relocation of homes and businesses currently located there, said Zhao Ming, director of the Planning and Development Section of the Provincial Tourism Bureau.

Second, trees and grass will be planted on and around the site which covers an area of 3.2 square kilometers. This will improve the surrounding environment, said Zhao.

Third, two new museums will be built, one with a 10,000 square meter floor area, the other 1,800 square meters.

The emperor unified the country, which had been a messy jigsaw of kingdoms continuously warring. The emperor's contribution to China was considerable and endured down the ages, right up in fact to the 20th century. He standardized legal codes, the writing system, currency, weights and measures, built extensive irrigation systems and set in motion the building of the Great Wall.

The first pit containing some of the Terracotta Army was discovered by three farmers in 1974. By 1979 a museum exhibiting some of the unique relics was opened.

Since the discovery of the Terracotta Army, archaeological research and studies in and around the emperor's mausoleum have continued leading to many important finds.

The park is essential to better protecting the ruins and relics, and to better employ available resources to further archaeological studies and advance tourism, said Zhao.

Millions of tourists from home and overseas have visited the site in the past two decades, and the numbers are set to rise as tourism in China expands.

According to the construction plan, the core district of the park will be completed within three to five years and cover an area of 2.13 square kilometers. Archaeologists, meanwhile, will continue their research work which extends to some 17.5 square kilometers around the mausoleum site.

(China Daily May 13, 2003)

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