About 6 billion yuan ($857 million) will be needed to renovate and protect the cultural relics sites damaged in the 8.0-magnitude quake, according to China's State Administration of Cultural Heritage on Friday.
As most of the ruined cultural relics were located in the less-developed interior provinces and regions, the central finance body was to cover most of the renovation expenses, Shan Jixiang, the administration director, said at a press conference.
A total of 169 cultural relic sites under state protection and 250 provincial-level ones in seven provinces and municipalities suffered damages of various degrees during the May 12 quake, he said.
In total, 2,766 relics were damaged, of which 292 were considered very precious, the official said.
Shan said it would take at least five years to renovate and rebuild the damaged relics in the quake-hit areas.
The quake affected provinces included as far as north as Shanxi Province, with one cultural heritage under state protection and one provincial-level relic site damaged to some degree, said the official.
The southwestern Sichuan, northwestern Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, places that have boasted long histories and ancient civilizations for millenniums, were among the worst hit after the quake.
Cultural relics in seven cities and 35 counties were affected in Shaanxi Province. All told, 29 cultural relics sites under state protection and 17 provincial-level ones were affected, while 308 pieces of relics were damaged, of which 41 were considered very precious.
In Sichuan, 83 cultural relics sites under state protection and 174 provincial-level ones were damaged, with 1,839 museum pieces affected, among which 189 were considered rare.
Many ancient buildings, including the Erwang Temple, a structure built 2,000 years ago to honor builders of the world's oldest irrigation project Dujiangyan, have collapsed.
Dujiangyan was still in operation but cracks had been reported in some parts.
Shan said temporary reconstruction efforts would be focused on the renovation of Erwang Temple and experts from Qinghua University in Beijing were clearing the building's debris and doing preparations for rebuilding.
The reconstruction and renovation would mostly feature re-use of the materials left after the tremor and laying solid quake-proof groundwork, he said.
The official added he was a bit relieved to see that most of the well-known cultural heritage sites were not severely damaged.
Enlisted as World Heritage sites, the irrigation project Dujiangyan was not at risk and still operational. The Dazu Rock Carvings in Chongqing, Sichuan's neighboring municipality, stood up to the quake and an 800-year-old rock carving -- the "Qianshou" ("A Thousand Hands") Guanyin (Buddhist) statue -- was intact, said the official.
Cracks were found on some terracotta warriors in northwestern Shaanxi Province but the damage was not serious. The Yingxian Wooden Tower of Shanxi, the world's tallest wooden structure, was not affected, he said.
One of the most pressing tasks for now was to save and put in order some cultural relics. Many of their components were buried under the collapsed buildings. The speed in repairing endangered cultural relic structures and warehouses that had large stocks of precious pieces also need to get quicker, he said.
The official said the warehouses played a critical role in preserving and saving the precious cultural relics during the quake.
In Mianyang, a city worst-hit by the quake, only one out of 5,000 stocked pieces was ruined due to the protection of a warehouse.
The warehouse held the collected pieces from seven cities and counties within its jurisdiction. These included those from the epicenter of Wenchuan and Beichuan counties. Only one was ruined during the quake, according to the administration.
Nearly all the relics left in their original places, most of ordinary importance, were destroyed by the quake, said the administration official.
China now has 300 cultural relics stock houses, and plans to add another 100 by 2010.
So far, local authorities have transferred more than 200 boxes of rare relic pieces from the Mianyang warehouse in case the quake lake Tangjiashan upstream may break its banks and flood the place.
Damages of cultural relics were also reported in Yunnan and Hubei provinces.
(Xinhua News Agency June 6, 2008)