Projects to Save Tibetan Relics Under Way

Massive maintenance projects on three major cultural relic sites have begun in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in Southwest China.

The projects to restore the Potala Palace, Sayga Monastery and Norbulinka are expected to take three to five years and are intended to tackle all problems at the root.

Special expertise has been brought in and funds have been allocated to renovate buildings that are listed as World Cultural Heritage sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Since the 1980s, the central government has granted more than 300 million yuan (US$36 million) together with large amounts of gold and silver to Tibet for this purpose.

The Tibetan regional government has also launched a renovation programme for old districts in Lhasa with the help of the central government.

The programme is expected to improve residential housing conditions in these districts while safeguarding thr Jokhang Temple, also a World Cultural Heritage site.

A member of the monastery management committee, Nyi'ma Ceing, said the wooden building was in stable condition.

Guo Bao, a specialist in relics protection, said the ancient buildings feature stone and wood structures with trapezium walls, which are easily damaged by silverfish and erosion.

The ongoing renovation programme involves 56 residential courtyards, four of them on the city's protection list, said Guo.

Meanwhile, modern structures around the monastery that may be fire hazards to the ancient building will be demolished in accordance with proposals put forward by UNESCO, Guo said.

In the wake of increasing threats to heritage sites, the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage was passed by the 17th assembly of UNESCO in Paris in 1972.

China has vowed to make heritage protection a priority since it became a member of the convention in 1989. The government has also established regulations for better protection work.

The ongoing reconstruction of endangered houses in the old urban areas of Lhasa will help better protect the Jokhang Temple, according to Living Buddha Bomi Qambalozhub.

The Jokhang Temple, situated on Bargor Street in downtown Lhasa, is a prime seat of the yellow sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

With a history of 1,355 years, the monastery, which houses a statue of Buddha Sakyamuni, was added to the World Cultural Heritage list of UNESCO in 2000.

Living Buddha Bomi Qambalozhub, 85, who is vice-chairman of the Buddhist Association of China, said many traditional Tibetan cultural sites in the old city area have enjoyed key protection work, with the Jokhang Temple at the centre.

( China Daily July 29, 2002)

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