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Survey: Ming Tomb in Good Shape

The historic Xiaoling Tomb from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) is in fairly good physical condition, its first high-tech survey has revealed.

Located at the foot of the southern side of Mount Zhongshan in the eastern suburbs of Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, the tomb was included on the World Cultural Heritage list by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) last July.

"Such kind of surveys are part of our long-term plan," said Liao Jinhan, vice-director of the cultural relics department under the National Park of the Zhongshan Scenic Area.

Only under long-term protection and maintenance can the Xiaoling Tomb stand generation after generation.

"Some famous world heritage sites in foreign countries have been forewarned by UNESCO because of a lack of protection or over-exploitation, which is a warning to all of the world heritage sites in China," Liao said.

Doctor Mu Baogang from the Civil Engineering Department at Southeast University was responsible for the high-tech survey, which started in April and finished early last month.

Surveyors mainly examined the tomb's weathering, deformation and waterproofing abilities.

The result shows that most of the tomb's structure is stable. However, some problems were still found in the Big Golden Gate and the Ming Tower, two of the main parts of the tomb.

"There are some big cracks in the Big Golden Gate, which had been caused by weeds and wild plants," Mu explained.

"The top waterproof layer of the Ming Tower has been destroyed through the years and some of its mortar has been washed away by rain.

As soon as the survey was finished, the Civil Engineering Department at Southeast University and the National Park of the Zhongshan Scenic Area came up with several practical schemes to solve the problems.

The weeds and wild plants are gone from the gate and measures have been taken to protect the waterproof layer of the tower.

"Apart from regular surveys, the park has also drawn out some detailed plans to protect the tomb area," Liao said.

More exhibitions involving its precious cultural relics will be held, assisting the public to better understand the importance of protecting the Xiaoling Tomb.

Also, international conferences and exchanges will be regularly held, during which protection experience can be passed on and the latest information obtained.

The surrounding areas of the tomb will be greatly improved in the wake of the survey.

"The city government has just invested 2 billion yuan (US$240 million) to change the environment of the whole Zhongshan scenic area, removing some houses and planting more trees," Liao said.

"The whole project will be completed in three or four years."

A comprehensive survey report of every world heritage-listed site's condition has to be handed to UNESCO every six years.

(China Daily July 8, 2004)

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