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Dispute Over Relics in Qufu

QUFU: The birthplace of Confucius, the world-renowned ancient thinker and educator - is receiving increasing attention from across the country, because of a quarrel between the local tourism administration and cultural relics administration.

The dispute originated from a report in the Shanghai-based Jiefang Daily, which said improper cleaning had severely damaged the Confucian Temple, the Confucian Family's Mansion and the Confucian Cemetery in Qufu located in East China's Shandong Province.

In an interview with China Daily, the State Bureau of Cultural Relics confirmed all details in the report. (See Page 1, February 6).

China Daily was unable to contact the local tourism administration and local government for comment.

After the story was published, the head of the local tourism bureau whose surname was Kong, said the local government had made a thorough investigation into the matter and found there had been no substantial damage.

Kong said the International Confucian Tourism Co Ltd had never used a water-hose to clean the three relics.

In a bid to find out the truth, China Daily went to Qufu, joining a group of journalists from home and abroad.

It seemed that the statue as well as the temple's artwork are still in good shape. The golden calligraphy and coloured paintings on the temple's roof beam are as vivid as before. Some dust was even observed on the artwork,

Some workers at the temple said: "We have been working here for years. We look on the relics as part of our lives, how would we be so stupid as to clean them with water?"

Xu Huichen, vice-director of the Qufu Cultural Relic Tourism Centre and an expert in ancient architecture, said the materials used to create ancient artwork in temples were usually made of natural minerals.

This meant that the artwork often only survived for about 100 years. The artwork in the Dacheng Hall is more than 100 years old. It is therefore understandable that they are aged and faded to some extent.

Some of the steles' epigraphs are quite hard to read after decades of being touched by visitors, but no damage was done by the water they were washed in.

However, the State Bureau of Cultural Relics stands by its accusation, pointing out that the protection of cultural relics requires professional skills.

It says it is impossible for untrained people to ascertain whether the relics have been damaged.

The investigation team sent by local government did not include any relics experts, Kong admitted, arguing that the local relics administration had refused an invitation to join the team.

(China Daily 02/10/2001)

Qufu Relics Damaged by Cleaning Firm
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