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Tombs Renovation to Cost Millions

A massive renovation project on a dilapidated imperial tomb dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) started yesterday in the northwestern suburbs of Beijing.

The Qingling Tomb, one of the mausoleums comprising Ming's 13 Tombs of emperors, contains the remains of Emperor Zhu Changluo.

Built in 1621, the Qingling Tomb is a medium-sized tumulus that covers an area of more than 27,000 square metres.

The renovation, with an estimated cost of 38 million yuan (US$4.6 million), includes areas of the tomb seriously damaged by hundreds of years of natural decay and human activity, such as stone bridges, gates, halls and a drainage system, according to the Beijing Administrative Bureau of Cultural Relics.

Cao Pengcheng, director of the Ming's Thirteen Tombs Office, said the renovation work is expected to be completed by October 2004.

He said earlier repair projects on Deling and Kangling tombs are still under way, and both will be finished this year.

Located in a 40-square-kilometre area surrounded by a cluster of hills north of downtown Beijing, Ming's Thirteen Tombs hold the remains of 13 of the Ming Dynasty's 16 emperors, 23 empresses, many imperial concubines, princes and princesses, and numerous imperial slaves.

The group of mausoleums was added to the World Heritage List this July by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

According to Cao, his office will restore seven other tombs over the next five years based on the commitment to the UNESCO.

So far, only three of the tombs are open to the public: Changling, Dingling and Zhaoling. Changling Tomb is the oldest and largest and contains the remains of the third emperor Zhu Di (1360-1424), who moved the capital from Nanjing in East China's Jiangsu Province to Beijing and constructed the Imperial Palace - Forbidden City.

In another development, reclamation of the ruins of Hanjingtang Complex, the largest horticultural complex in the Yuanmingyuan Garden in northwest Beijing, has been completed and the site will open to the public in early October, according to the city's cultural relics bureau.

Built between 1745 and 1770, the complex was one of the most characteristic and important palace complexes in Yuanmingyuan before being looted, and burned down by Anglo-French forces in 1860.

(China Daily September 17, 2003)

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