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Specialists Planning Preservation of China's Heritage Sites
The recent facelift and anniversary of the Leshan Buddha statue brought experts from home and abroad to southwest China's Sichuan Province to discuss how to preserve the nation's cultural heritage sites.

The specialists included officials from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and representatives from 29 world heritage sites around the globe.

The world's tallest Buddha statue, located in Sichuan, just celebrated its 1,200th anniversary and benefited from a 60-day facelift. The project is reportedly the first in China to use a World Bank loan to repair and restore a world heritage site.

The Leshan Buddha was added to the UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage list in 1996, one of 28 sites in China to receive that honor. Currently, there are 730 sites worldwide on the list, 140 of which are in Asia.

Attendees of the recent gathering discussed how to preserve these sites in China, prevent overload and undue development of them and eliminate dangers posed by civilization, commercialization and human activities.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has listed 32 sites globally as endangered. Though no sites from China are included on the "black list," some of them face the risks from loss of resources and development.

To intensify preservation in China, Frencesco Bandarin, director of the UNESCO World Heritage Center, proposed the establishing of committees and networks and insisted strong efforts should be made to keep the sites intact in accordance with original archives.

Given the fast-expanding tourism industry in China, he also suggested policies should be made for protection from growing numbers of visitors.

Yasuyuku Aoshima, director and representative of the UNESCO Beijing Office, told the specialists it is of crucial significance to make all Chinese people understand the importance of protecting and preserving world heritages.

According to Aoshima, apart from artificial damages, attention should be paid to threats from natural disasters. He said that Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui and Sichuan provinces along the Yangtze River valley should prepare to protect world heritage sites from flooding, which some of the provinces experienced this summer.

The Chinese government has always attached great importance to protecting natural and cultural heritage sites.

Besides the aforesaid "Leshan Buddha" statue, the Potala Palaceand Norbuglinkha, both on the UNESCO list, are receiving government aid for restoration to regain their original magnificence, as is the Sagya Monastery with its abundance of rare religious relics. All three sites are in the Tibet Autonomous Region, southwest China.

(Xinhua News Agency September 9, 2002)

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