Protection of Yungang Grottoes Effective: Expert

China's efforts to protect the precious ancient Yungang grottoes have been effective and impressive, said a professor sent to look over the progress by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Mohammad Rafique Mughal, a professor of archaeology at Boston University, said after his recent trip to the grotto in north China's Shanxi province, that he was deeply impressed with the efforts.

The Yungang Grottoes, one of the largest and oldest Buddhist cave formations in China, applied for placement on the World Cultural Heritage List, which operates under UNESCO, last year.

The 1,500-year-old grottoes include 45 caves, more than 1,000 niches and about 51,000 Buddha statues.

The grottoes here are even more spectacular than they are in pictures, said Mughal.

The government has spent about 250 million yuan (28 million US dollars) on a new highway to divert the heavy flow of coal trucks which previously traveled on a state-level highway near the grottoes.

Shanxi, one of China's major coal bases, has also shut down coal mines and coking plants located near the grottoes.

"The surrounding environment of the grotto has been largely improved," said Li Zhiguo, director of the Yungang Cultural Relics Research Institute.

There are currently some 630 world heritage sites, including 27 in China.

People's Daily Online ---