Three Gorges Probe

Relics fear death by water

China Daily
February 16, 2006

The money Beijing has earmarked to excavate historic sites and relics before they are inundated by the Three Gorges reservoir can save just one-tenth of what’s there, says Yu Weichao, curator of the Museum of Chinese History.

The government building of Fengjie County, Southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality was blown up on January 20. The demolition of the first batch of buildings in the county marked the start of a plan to clean-up the reservoir area for the Three Gorges Project. The clean-up is now urgent as the Three Gorges Project on the Yangtze River, the largest in the world, is schedulded to begin power generation in 2003. Together with the prompt move of the clean-up is another urgent mission for Chinese archaerologists. They have been given 15 years to learn everything they can about the precious relics, some of which date back to the Stone Age, and, if possible, to save them from a watery grave before the world’s largest hydroelectric power project is completed in China. Since even half-a-century wouldn’t have been enough for the task, losing some of the valuable pieces of history is unfortunately unavoidable for the Three Gorges Dam. "We don’t have much option but to let some less valuable relics be buried for posterity," says Xu Guangji, an archaeologist with the Institute of Archaeology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Because excavation work is being carried out according to a protection plan, "obviously, the most valuable relics must be protected first," says Xu, who played and important role in drafting the excavation plan. "The less valuable ones will be either saved later or buried under water," Xu added. About 22 historic counties, cities, and districts will be flooded to make way for the 632-square-kilometre reservoir of the dam. Though the Chinese government has earmarked 1 billion yuan (US$ 120 million) to save the relics before they are inundated, "that amount can only save just one-tenth of the historic sites and relics. The rest of them will be forced to go under water," says Yu Weichao, curator of the Museum of Chinese History and an expert in cultural relics. The area with discovered archaeological treasures is spread over about 20 million square metres, Yu says. But only 2 million square metres can be saved.

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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