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Elevating Historical Sites

By Xu Ming (Global Times)

10:03, August 08, 2012

Elevator near Wuding Gate entrance (GT/ Xu Ming)

Nanjing's 600-year-old city wall is again being put under the spotlight. According to a recently released proposal of a central park involving Nanjing's city wall, elevators will be built along the wall from Shence Gate to Xuanwu Gate to assist visitors in the climb.

Wang Zhenhe, director of Nanjing's tourism bureau, said that they wanted to make it easier for tourists to get onto the wall. The ancient wall in Nanjing is not fully exploited as a symbol of history and culture yet, the bureau said, and most visitors to Nanjing are thwarted by the tedious trek.

Two elevators will send people up to the wall, said Wang Jianye, a staff with the bureau.

Though the proposal is still under discussion, it has already caused much controversy, reflecting a larger, national issue of how to properly protect China's historical sites.

Nanjing's conundrum

The proposal reignites controversy over an elevator that has already been built in the west of Wuding Gate, located in a quiet corner. The elevator was built by the construction bureau of Qinhuai district at the end of 2007.

"It is not open to the public yet," a staff with Wuding Gate Park told the Global Times. She said she is unsure of when it will open.

The elevator, erected about three meters away from the wall, is in violation of the protection regulations for Nanjing's city wall, which states that no construction is allowed within 15 meters of the wall. Construction within 50 meters must be approved by Nanjing's urban planning bureau and the bureau of cultural heritage. Illegal construction will be demolished, according to the regulations.

Yang Xiaohua, director of the city wall management department, said that the bureau of cultural heritage asked to demolish the elevator, but nothing has happened, thus far.

Nanjing residents are sensitive about the issue, as the wall is historically and culturally significant, standing through monumental events such as the Nanjing Massacre. It is also a main tourist attraction.

With Zhongshan Mountain in the east and Qinhuai River in the south, the 33.7-kilometer long rampart took Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), 21 years to build.

Today, over 20 kilometers of the wall remains. It is the longest city wall in China. The wall was listed as one of the key historical sites under State protection in 1988. In 1996, Nanjing city government enacted protection regulations to protect the wall.

"Obviously, some departments didn't pay enough attention to the law," said Zeng Yizhi, member of the International Council on Monuments and Sites in China. To Zeng, the elevator is entirely catered to tourists. "It will affect the historical [integrity] of the wall."

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