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Jiaohe city ruins preserve nation's heritage

Updated: 2022-07-23 09:32 ( CHINA DAILY/XINHUA )
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New reinforcement to be launched for site along Silk Road in Xinjiang

A new round of reinforcement and maintenance work on the ancient Jiaohe Ruins is expected to kick off later this year, focusing on mending the cracked cliff and cultural relics in the west of the site, according to local cultural relics management authorities.

"We've submitted the project design plan to the National Cultural Heritage Administration," said Wang Jiandong, director of the cultural relics management institute of the ruins. Wang has been in charge of the operations of Jiaohe Ruins-a world cultural heritage site, and also the best-preserved, longest-lasting and largest relic of a clay-built city across the globe.

The ruins sit in Turpan, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, and cover 37.6 hectares.

"It has been faced with serious natural disasters, such as wind and rain erosion, floods, earthquakes and large temperature differences,"Wang said. "The ruins' protection and repair work is an important matter that has been put before us."

His commitment to the job grew stronger when President Xi Jinping visited the Jiaohe Ruins on July 14.

Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, emphasized that the ancient city of Jiaohe served as a main traffic artery along the Silk Road, witnessing the more than 5,000-year history of Chinese civilization, and is of great historical value.

Xi regarded it necessary to strengthen the protection, utilization of cultural relics, and the preservation, passing-down of cultural heritage, to constantly expand the global influence of Chinese culture, and boost national pride and cultural confidence.

Jiaohe Ruins can be dated back to around 2,300 years ago, and was a key passage on the ancient Silk Road, serving as a hub for communication among different cultures. As a fortress atop a steep cliff, the city was built by digging the ground rather than being built up. It is among the world's oldest and largest cities structured in this fashion.

The ruins were not only home to the highest military and political institution in the western region of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) but also house more than 50 Buddhist sites, all of which have great research value, according to Chen Aifeng, deputy director of Academia Turfanica, a Turpan-based research institute focusing on regional heritage.

From 2006 to 2017, four rounds of reinforcement and maintenance work have been carried out successively in the Jiaohe Ruins with a total investment of over 100 million yuan ($14.9 million), according to Wang.

So far, a professional team has taken shape to protect the Jiaohe Ruins.

Gulibekge Maiming Reheman, a team member, followed in the footsteps of her grandfather and father and became a conservator in Jiaohe after graduation.

She studied history and cultural relics protection during her undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

What makes her proud is that in 2014, she was able to participate in the preparatory work for Jiaohe's entry into world cultural heritage. She said the moment when the ancient city was successfully listed as a world cultural heritage site will be etched in her heart forever.

"Being able to work on cultural relics protection like my grandfather and father seems to be the best gift in the world," she said.

Compared with the previous cultural relics conservators, the current team is equipped with better scientific knowledge. Besides gaining the necessary understanding of history and cultural relics protection, Gulibekge and her colleagues are required to take photos during patrols to record the changes in the ancient city in details.

"We're also conducting more research-based protections, such as how tourism development might affect the area," she said.

With the strong support of the State and local governments, cultural relics protection workers have continuously strengthened efforts to find potential safety hazards in Jiaohe Ruins, and completed the reinforcement and maintenance of several parts of the site.

The improvement of technological means has ensured better protection of the cultural heritage. For example, the monitoring system will keep an eye out for cracks on the relics, Wang said.

"If there is a change in the crack, the system will alert and help us to go to that spot and check things out in time and accurately," he added.

Xinhua contributed to this story.


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