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Dunhuang: Time Running out to Save Cultural Treasures
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There is more to Dunhuang than just the famed grottoes. Sun Pass (Yangguan in Chinese Pinyin), built over 2,000 years ago, is also high up on any visitor's list.


The ruins are not that impressive to look at, until it is pointed out that Sun Pass and Jade Gate Pass (Yumenguan in Chinese pinyin) were one of two main gates along the fabled Silk Road.



Before the Han authorities set up the western border crossings in BC 121, Yangguan was a wasteland.


The Han administration encouraged migration to the area and started building a thriving frontier town.


"The Silk Road would not have existed without this period of development," Yangguan Museum chief Ji Yongyuan said.


The emergence of Dunhuang culture, which is both local and global, was not an accident. Early development made construction of the grottoes in AD 366 possible.


Although it is not obvious from the ruins, the Great Wall "is a living testimonial of the period", Ji said.


When Yangguan was first established it was the sole contact point between China and the states west of it.


In Western countries many relics of bygone empires have been preserved, but cultural preservation at Yangguan is now at "a very critical phase", Ji said.


"It isn't that the country, the province or the city has not paid notice - but the level


of attention is still not enough. Now is the time to rescue what we still have."


Ji is referring to remnants of the Great Wall, built some 2,100 years ago. At present, what's left of it covers an area of over 100,000 sq m, roughly 300 m in length.


"Two heavy rains will bring it down and you won't find anything left afterward," Ji said. "Once it falls, we're all doomed."


(China Daily September 25, 2007)


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