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UPDATED: April 27, 2013 NO.18 MAY 2, 2013
Preserving History

POETIC ROMANCE: Tourists visit Hongcun, a village in Yixian County, east China's Anhui Province, famous for its well-preserved Ming and Qing dynasty residences (XINHUA)

Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan recently revealed plans to donate four ancient Chinese buildings that he had collected to a university in Singapore. The Huistyle structures, featuring grey tiles and white walls, are some of the most important architectural vestiges in the country. The style was made popular during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911) in the area where Anhui, Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces meet. Such dwellings that remain have been added to the list of world intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.

The news has stirred debate over whether China's historic relics should be donated to other countries and how to better protect cultural heritage. The following are excerpts of opinions:


Cheng Jiyue (www.xinhuanet.com): It is widely recognized within the relic protection circle that the best way to protect ancient buildings is to leave them where they are. Once these structures are removed to a new place, away from the climatic, geographic and cultural environment

they have been in for so many years,the value of certain relics and the cultural significancethey possess will gradually vanish. The Hui-style white-walled wood and stone buildings, boasting delicate carvings, belong to the localnatural environment featuring green mountainsand clean rivers. Elsewhere, these buildings will not be as beautiful as they are now.

Li Yong (People's Daily): Currently, every province in China has a law forbidding the sale of protected ancient buildings. But even if these structures are not subject to law, it is still improper to send them abroad. A piece of art will always lose part of its significance when displaced.

These buildings are Chinese in nature and they are meant to stay in the country. The climate in Singapore might not be that healthy. More importantly, once leaving their birthplace and hometown, the origi-Preserving History nal value of these ancient buildings mightsoon vanish.


Bi Xiaozhe (www.eastday.com): More than a decade ago, the damaging and selling of ancient architecture and ordinary residential houses became very popular, with the selling of Wulong Temple in Changzhou of east China's Jiangsu Province as a typical example. In November 2005, the temple was sold for 300 million yuan ($49.18 million) to real estate developers.Furthermore, another 8,000 Hui-style traditional buildings are under threat of being sold. The cruel reality and tragic fate of these ancient structures worries Jackie Chan, who has been very concerned about conservation efforts.Against such a backdrop, it seems natural and inevitable for him to donate his preserved old houses to a Singapore university.

This event, to some extent, is a reminder to relevant departments of the urgency of protecting local ancient buildings. Chan is widely recognized as a patriotic movie star, but even he does not trust his home country's ability to preserve historic relics. This is a shameful lesson that we should learn from.

Chan's choice of Singapore as the destination of his buildings is hurting national dignity. It's really high time for the country to take tangible measures to prevent the silly practice of dismantling precious ancient structures for short-sighted gain.

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