An ancient watchtower in northwest China, with a history of more than 1,200 years, has been destroyed by a TV production company shooting Kongfu scenes.
The best preserved ancient Tang Dynasty (618-907) watchtower in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was sprayed black by staff from Guangdong CHS Media Holding Co. Ltd. on a location shoot.
The ancient tower is an important cultural site. The law stipulates that a company that wants to shoot a TV play at a cultural site must obtain permission from the regional cultural heritage department.
However, the company failed to apply for permission before shooting, said Zhu Jiangfeng, an official from the local cultural relic protection bureau.
"When we were informed of the incident, we hurried out to the site, but the production staff had already finished building the scene and had sprayed the watchtower with something black," Zhu said.
"We ordered them to clean the stained watchtower, but it's hard to remove the stains completely," Zhu added.
Experts from the local cultural relics bureau checked the tower and found the damage was serious:the north wall of the watchtower, the best preserved part for over 1,200 years, was stained black over an area of 60 square meters; the other walls had been trampled on and damaged.
After verifying the damage, the cultural relics bureau fined the company 10,000 yuan (about 1,250 U.S.dollars) and invited experts to repair the watchtower.
This is not the first time the company has destroyed a cultural site. The same company stained a precious Buddhist stone carving in East China's Zhejiang Province in May.
The two cases of cultural hooliganism have aroused public criticism of the company.
In another case, the producers of director Chen Kaige's fantasy movie The Promise were punished for damaging a historic site in Shangrila in southwestern China's Yunnan Province.
The film crew was accused of littering and destroying vegetation at a scenic nature reserve known as Blue Sky Pond while the film was being shot in 2004.
A provincial regulation led to a fine of 90,000 yuan for the producers, and a Shangrila county deputy magistrate was fired for dereliction of duty.
But some experts criticized the local government for being too tolerant of the film production company, because the fine of 90,000 yuan (about 11,250 U.S.dollars) is a small sum compared with the huge movie investments.
The company may get the pernicious idea that paying a modest fine is the best way of resolving hooligan-like behavior, experts said.
"Companies violating the laws should be punished severely," said Li Jun, office director of the Xinjiang cultural relic bureau.
The Ministry of Construction has revised the regulation on the environmental protection of scenic spots, instituting fines ranging from 500,000 yuan (62,500 U.S. dollars) to 1 million yuan for heavy damage to scenery, vegetation and landforms.