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Who should pay for cultural memory of the public?

(People's Daily Online)

16:23, October 12, 2012

The "Memorial Archway of Wuhan University," one of two landmark landscapes in Wuhan University. (Xinhua)

Two pieces of "quasi-culture" news recently aroused public attention. The first event took place at the important cultural heritage site — the Palace Museum; and the second happened in Wuhan University.

Let's see about the first event first. A citizen in Jinan who had worked as an editor found more than 100 mistakes in a booklet named Tourist Map of the Palace Museum that his son-in-law brought back to him, and then he disclosed this to media. Of course, the Palace Museum has made a statement, claiming that the tourist maps are illegal printing materials peddled by unlicensed vendors, instead of being officially issued by the Palace Museum.

Opening the tour map, you could find incredible errors. In all fairness, a printing material with so many errors is unlikely to be published by the Palace Museum indeed. However, the fault that should not have been attributed to the Palace Museum still became the focus of public opinions. Perhaps, the Palace Museum is paying for other "undereducated" behaviors.

After crowded and painful sightseeing experiences in the Imperial Palace during the holidays of Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day, people were still impressed by the benefit-oriented behavior that just considering ticket income but ignoring the carrying capacity and cultural heritage of the Imperial Palace. Who is to blame for the fake tourist maps introducing "24 emperors" in the Imperial Palace?

The Wuhan University seems to feel wronged. It did not expect that demolishing the "Memorial Archway of Wuhan University," one of two landmark landscapes in Wuhan University (the other is "Sakura Path of Luojiashan Mountain"), will cause a great disturbance, although the memorial archway is not the real wooden arch but a fake constructed with cement 20 years ago.

However, if the building with 30 years of history can be said a "historical monument," the memorial archway of Wuhan University with 20 years of history is far from a cement gate. Moreover, it has been the cultural symbol of the university and a memory in the university and even central China.

As what professor of Tongji University Zhang Hong had said that despite the arch will be reconstructed after demolishment, it still incurred emotional resistance of the public. Compared with removing of concrete buildings, people are more disgusted at damage of cultural memory. Similarly, the invasion of commercial factors in the Imperial Palace is also an erosion of cultural nostalgia.

If some of universities and colleges, which are another holy land transmitting cultural memory, lose their role in passing on the memory, it will gradually disappear. The reason why a wrong tourist map or a demolished memorial archway will stir controversy and concern is that it ignited the resolution of the public to defend the cultural memory.

Source:West China City Daily, author: Li Xiaoliang.

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