China to Repair Ancient Suspended Coffins

China's cultural relics department has decided to renovate the ancient suspended coffins in Gongxian County of southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The coffins contain the remains of the extinct Bo ethnic people. The Bo set up an ancient State of Bo in what is now Yibin City. On death, their bodies would be put into a coffin which then was laid by a cliff. The Bo is believed to be the pioneers of the Silk Road leading to Southeast Asian countries.

To date, suspended coffins have been found at 18 counties in other provinces. Gongxian County, known as the "natural museum of suspended coffins", has the most with more than 290.

The majority of the suspended coffins in Gongxian County were put up in the period ranging from the Jin Dynasty (265-420) to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Many coffins were placed on wooden stakes. Others were either put up in caves or on cliffs. They are unique in the region, attracting tens of thousands of Chinese and overseas visitors annually.

Four large-scale repair works on these coffins have been conducted previously.

The new renovation project will be launched to restore the rock paintings, consolidate the cliffs holding the suspended coffins and build drainage system around the area where the suspended coffins are located.

The new repairs will cost two million yuan (US$241,830 ) to be provided by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

(People's Daily August 17, 2002)