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China to Start Repairing Quake-damaged Culture Heritage Sites

China will start repairing culture heritage sites damaged in the May 12 earthquake starting with Dujiangyan, the 2,200-year-old irrigation project in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The director of State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) Shan Jixiang told Xinhua Wednesday that the repair program at Dujiangyan will start later this month and others will follow.

Dujiangyan, built in 256 B.C. along the Yangtze River's main tributary Minjiang River, is the world's oldest irrigation project still functioning. It distributes water from the river to the Chengdu Plain, supporting more than 10 million people.

After the 8-magnitude quake, cracks were found on the Fish Mouth, a dike that divides the Minjiang River into two branches, the inner and outer ones and a key part for the Dujiangyan project. The city near the project and named after it was one of the worst hit places.

About 169 cultural heritage sites under state protection, including two in the UNESCO world heritage list, and 250 ones under provincial protection suffered damage of different degrees in the quake, according to the SACH.

In the worst-hit Sichuan Province, 79 of its 128 state-level heritage sites were damaged.

The authorities will repair the world heritage sites first and start contingency repairing on those that were partly damaged but whose main structure remained intact, he said.

Some heritage sites were hit by geologic disasters such as landslides and the repair work on them would not start until conditions allowed, he said. "Cultural heritage sites have close connections with local residents. They are an inalienable part of their life," said Shan.

Shan cited about 520 stone-made castle dwellings of Qiang ethnic minority in quake areas as an example. "They are cultural heritage sites but also homes to local people," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency June 19, 2008)

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