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Reviving the Lost Tribe


Once a utopian people, a dignified culture and a proud tribe, the Qiang nationality’s idyllic presence has nearly become a thing of the past.

On May 12, 2008, the Qiang nationality suffered a near fatal blow from the disastrous and infamous Sichuan earthquake. All the houses in Luobo village, the most ancient Qiang village of Wenchuan, were knocked down. The same tragedy befell hundreds of typical Qiang houses, buildings and bridges in Beichuan, Maoxian and Lixian counties. More than 30,000 Qiang people lost their lives in the quake, 40 of whom were cultural masters and experts.

It is the most damage New China’s cultural relics have suffered since its founding in 1949. The number of damaged historical sites under state-level protection will most likely rise after further investigation, experts on cultural relic protection predict.

Faced with such a tremendous disaster for the nation's cultural heritage, the Chinese government has pledged to repair and restore all the damaged historical sites to their former glory.

Officials have submitted a construction plan for a cultural protection region for the Qiang nationality to the State Council. The plan is almost completed with only a few details remaining to be decided.

The plan aims to restore and rebuild the cultural facilities, villages, buildings and gardens destroyed by the quake. Relics and documents will be better preserved and Qiang cultural masters will have a larger stage to resume the traditions and festivals of their people.

But experts said the repair work will be very difficult. Luo Zhewen, an expert on ancient architecture in China, said that some wooden buildings are able to be renovated, but brick or stone buildings are more difficult to restore. He also warned that old buildings that have already collapsed should not be moved in haste, as many bricks or tiles that are intact can be used in repair work to maintain the original look.

New books and videotapes will be created to bolster the Qiang language in the protection region. Art, cuisine and traditional tailoring will be explored for future development. The project also lists the specific ways to protect Qiang cultural masters and the nationality's relics.

On June 14, a new exhibition called “Qiang Culture in the Earthquake-Hit Areas of Sichuan Province” opened at the Cultural Palace of Nationalities of Beijing.

The exhibition, which was the latest effort in restoring the glorious culture of the Qiang, presents more than 100 Qiang cultural items, including utensils, clothes and musical instruments. The items were collected from other counties that are also inhabited by the Qiang people but were less affected by the earthquake. There are also about 300 photographs taken by journalists that show the customs, creations and living habits of the Qiang people.

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