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Emergency Rescue Required for Cultural Relics in Three Gorges Dam Area
Hundreds of archeologists from around China, devoted to the protection of cultural relics in the dam area of the Three Gorges, can feel the clock ticking as the water of the Yangtze River, China's longest, is ready to fill the partially-built reservoir.

Right on schedule, the damming of the diversion canal used during phase-two of the Three Gorges Hydro-Power Project will be completed Wednesday, prompting the river water to flow into the dam area.

Cultural relics situated below the 135-meter water storage line will be submerged by June next year, when the reservoir goes into the first stage of operation.

A survey conducted by the State Bureau of Cultural Relics in 1994 shows that there are more than 60 relic sites of the Paleolithic Age and paleontological fossils, over 80 Neolithic Age sites, some 100 ancient burial grounds and 470 aristocrat tombs as well as approximately 300 building structures from the imperial Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911) in the dam area.

As China's largest archeological rescue program, the Three Gorges relics salvage works were officially launched in the second half of 1995, convening two thirds of the country's archeological research institutes, involving more than 1,200 archeologists, and teachers and students of archeology.

The Three Gorges Dam, which is mainly located in central China's Hubei province and southwestern Chongqing Municipality, have received a total of 339 million yuan (40.8 million US dollars) of state funds for the relic protection.

Up to now, 86.7 percent of the excavation works in the dam area of Hubei province has been completed, whereas the work in Chongqing municipality has been delayed. The present progress can only guarantee the completion of half of the planned relic protection work in Chongqing by the end of next year.

Wang Fengzhu, director of the Three Gorges Relics Protection Office in Hubei province, said that the amount of archeological work involved would normally require at least 50 years. However, Chinese archeologists only have some 10 to 15 years to rescue the relics. Every archeologist committed to the program have been toiling night and day at the relic rescue site.

To date, 450,000 square meters of excavation has been carried out in the dam area of Chongqing, and 240,000 square meters in Hubei, which has led to the finding of 4,000 rare, priceless relics.

Among the protected relics are four "state treasures," which are a 1,700-year-old temple, the ancient Dachang Town reputed for its well preserved and protected Ming-Dynasty style residential architectures, Baiheliang, or the world's oldest hydrologic inscriptions, and a stockade ancient village featuring exquisite wooden structures.

Chinese experts have worked out specific and proper protection methods for each of the archeological treasures.

The Zhang Fei Temple, originally built in honor of General Zhang Fei during the Three Kingdom period (220-280 a.d.) on the banks of the Yangtze River will be displaced and rebuilt brick-for-brick in its new location 32 km west of its existing site. The high-cost relic protection project, including the relocation of the entire construction as well as 126 ancient trees, is the largest relic relocation in China. The original temple will be disassembled by the end of this year.

The ancient Dachang Town will be rescued in a method similar to the Zhang Fei Temple. Its architecture will be rebuilt at a new site 5 km away, which will imitate the original geographic features and cultural flavors. The rebuilding will begin in February next year.

The protection scheme for the Baiheliang is special and unique. It will be turned into an underwater museum. The 1,600-meter long horizontal rock girder with inscriptions dating back 1,200 years will be protected in a container made of concrete and glass at its original site, which will be inundated after the damming.

Protectionists will make use of two low-water seasons to finish the construction of the museum. And an underwater passage will lead tourists to the museum in 2005.

The Shibao Village, dubbed as the world's most complex wooden structures, will be protected by a dyke encircling the village. Passenger and cargo wharves will be erected in April next year at the bank of the village.

(People's Daily November 6, 2002)

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Relics Relocation Not to Affect Tourism on Yangtze
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