China unveils poetry wall to commemorate 2008 massive earthquake

09:07, April 29, 2011      

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A memorial wall engraved with 20 well-selected poems was made public on Thursday in observance of the catastrophic earthquake that rocked southwest China's Sichuan Province three years ago.

The wall, measuring 2.28 meters high and 51.2 meters long, stands in the Chuanxindian Quake Ruins Park in Yinghua Township in Shifang City, one of the worst-hit areas in Sichuan, where the disaster left more than 80,000 dead or missing.

The height and length of the wall indicate the time at which the tragedy occurred: 2:28 p.m. on May 12.

The poems express deep compassion and condolences for the victims of the magnitude-8.0 quake, said Li Yuanzhi, deputy head of the publicity department of the Shifang City Committee of the Communist Party of China, at the unveiling ceremony.

They also record the country's efforts in quake relief and post-quake reconstruction, he added.

The poetry wall was designed to compare with the Western Wall in Palestine, the Berlin Wall in Germany and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the United States, according to the design group from the prestigious Tsinghua University.

"Poetry is an ideal form to inspire people. I believe the spirit embodied in the memorial wall can stand the test of time," Li said.

Notably, the English versions of the 20 poems, translated by the U.S. poet Denis Mair, are also engraved on the wall to extend the gratitude of the quake survivors to the rescue teams from Japan, Russia, Singapore and the Republic of Korea.

Two years after the quake, a semi-monthly Chinese poetry journal named the Star and the West China Metropolis Daily initiated a nationwide program to collect poems created to commemorate the quake.

A panel of nine judges, including laureate poets and renowned critics, selected the 20 poems written by both professional and grassroots poets from more than 20,000 submitted works.

"Poetry is like a rescue team, as it brings consolation to grief-stricken hearts and gives people courage to face the future," said Liang Ping, editor-in-chief of the Star.

Liang added that he hoped the memorial wall could change painful memories about the disaster into spiritual treasures.

"The poems really touch me, as they remind me of many details during the past three years. Our old home was seriously damaged in the quake, but now we've moved into a new one. I want to thank all the people who helped us," said Qi Wenyang, a sixth grader from Yinghua Township in Shifang.

"The place has changed so much. I feel so proud," said Xu Linquan, a rescuer from southwestern Yunnan Province who participated in the quake relief work in Shifang.

Six days after the earthquake, when he oversaw the rescue operations in Yingfeng Township where more than 6,000 people were dead or missing, Chinese President Hu Jintao urged rescuers to use "every available means" to reach all affected villages.

"I truly believe that the heroic Chinese people will not yield to any difficulty," Hu shouted through an amplifier in front of a group of rescuers as he stood on a heap of ruins, which were later built into the quake ruins park.

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