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Archaeologists Rescuing Relics for Three Gorges Dam

Following the unprecedented excavation of cultural relics for the Three Gorges Dam project, Chinese archaeologists are once again running against the clock to dig and relocate numerous of treasures facing inundation as the massive south-to-north water diversion project breaks ground.

Representatives from 51 qualified archeological agencies across the country vowed Thursday to win a special campaign to rescue such a large number of tombs, temples and other cultural sites for China's largest ever water project.

"We should assume responsibility towards our history and show our determination for cultural relics protection," Shan Jixiang, director of State Bureau of Cultural Relics (SBCR), said at a mobilization conference held Thursday in Zhengzhou, capital of central China's Henan Province.

"We need to assemble as many archeological talents as possible," Shan said.

As the project is expected to begin transferring water from its water-rich south to the arid north in 2007 and 2010 through two different routes in central and east China, many cultural sites, including historic sites of Xia and Zhou Dynasties dating back to more than 4,000 years ago, an ancient section of Great Wall, ancient noble tombs and a canal, have to make way for the project.

Officials and archaeologists from ministerial departments and seven provinces and municipalities where the project run through have agreed at the conference to join their hands to salvage such cultural sites at peril.

"It is an feasible way to recruit all archeological forces nationwide to properly handle cultural relics protection for massive engineering projects," said Gu Yucai, a cultural relics protection official from the SBCR. "This has been proven by our experience during the Three Gorges project."

A joint team consisting of four ministerial agencies has completed an archeological survey along the project areas to locate 788 cultural sites that need to be protected or excavated.

The Central Government has initially invested 50 million yuan (6.25 million US$) in 45 major cultural sites along the project areas and more funds are expected, Yin Hongwei, an official from the Water Resources Ministry.

To ensure the safety of cultural relics along the project areas, the SBCR has ordered all archeological institutes across the country to assist the construction of the project without hesitation.

However, archaeologists fear that there isn't too much time left for cultural relics protection with the project beginning early this year in central and east China.

"We will do our best to protect cultural relics for the south-to-north water diversion project," Du Jinpeng, an archaeologist from the Archeological Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Science.

"All other archeological activities except the Yin Ruins research will have to be suspended because of such rescue mission," he said, "about half of our institute's personnel will be dispatched."
(Xinhua News Agency November 18, 2005)


Archeologists Race Against Time at Three Gorges
Three Gorges Reservoir Area, a Geological Museum
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