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Fortifying history, beyond bulwarks

Updated: 2024-03-30 09:07 ( China Daily )
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An ancient earthen village gate still stands to date in Yuxian. [Photo provided to China Daily]

War and peace

Due to the simultaneous existence of military stations for soldiers and fortified civilian settlements during the Ming Dynasty, Yuxian contained an intricate network of defensive structures. Civilians built settlements with advanced defenses to stave off bandits, while soldiers constructed castles to protect national borders from military incursions, as well as other threats. The squad's investigation also uncovered a total of 822 temples in the county, 295 of which contain surviving murals.

Yuxian was a bustling hub in its heyday, but with the advent of modernization and the construction of roads, traffic along the ancient trade routes dwindled, leading to a decline in the county's popularity and economic viability, Cheng's observations suggest.

He is pleased to note that, over the past decade, the local authorities have strengthened the preservation and maintenance of the architecture and murals. Also, villagers' awareness of preservation has improved over time.

Yuxian is known as "a museum of ancient architecture and art in Hebei". The county has more than 1,800 cultural relic sites, 22 of which are under national protection, and 72 varieties of intangible cultural heritage.

However, Cheng still witnesses the disappearance of ancient forts and castles.

So, his journey continues. After all, there remain many secret stories and hidden histories, waiting to be unearthed.

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