Acting Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan vetoed a forestry department report Tuesday proposing the felling of two ancient trees that are endangering historical buildings at Ming Tombs.
The city's forestry administration said the two arborvitae, one aged over 200 years and the other 300 years, were leaning against centuries-old walls at the World Cultural Heritage site Qingling Tomb, one of the 13 Ming Emperors' Tombs.
The report said the trees should be felled because the walls were on the verge of collapsing and forestry experts had little hope that the trees would survive a transplant.
The report was submitted to a meeting at Wang's office Tuesday.
Wang immediately rejected the report when he saw digital photos of the two leafy trees. "They are green antiques and must be well protected."
He told officials in charge of repairs at the Ming Tombs to support the ancient buildings with buttresses instead.
The municipal government ruled in 1997 that the felling of trees aged 100 years or more was subject to approval from the mayor's office.
In 2001, the city set up archival records for all its 18,179 ancient trees in the suburbs that included digital photos taken from different angles of each tree and detailed descriptions of ages, diameters, heights, locations and overall conditions.
Systematic repairs of the Ming Emperors' Tombs are underway to better showcase the city's long history and culture to overseas tourists during the 2008 Olympics Games, officials say.
Repairs at Qingling Tomb, the third under repair following Deling Tomb and Kangling Tomb, started in September 2003 and involve a total cost of 38 million yuan (US$4.6 million).
The Qingling Tomb was built for Zhu Changluo, the 14th emperor of Ming Dynasty and his three wives.
According to historical records, the emperor was on the throne for just 29 days and died in 1620, at the age of 36. Therefore, it took only four months to complete his tomb which covered 27,600 square meters in area and cost 1.5 million taels of silver.
(Xinhua News Agency February 4, 2004)