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Pledge to advance conservation efforts for cultural relics marks heritage day

Updated: Jun 12, 2023 China Daily Print
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Symposiums on the use of science and technology in archaeological conservation efforts and an exhibition on Chinese civilization and characters were organized in Chengdu to mark the Cultural and Natural Heritage Day, which fell on Saturday.

Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, was selected as the main venue for this year's celebrations, which are themed on "strengthening the protection of cultural relics, upholding cultural confidence and self-improvement".

In a keynote speech during a ceremony at Chengdu Museum on Saturday, Li Qun, director of the National Cultural Heritage Administration, said that China will strengthen its research on the origins of the Chinese civilization.

Li emphasized the importance of keeping an open mind and promoting inclusiveness in cross-border communication while upholding China's cultural confidence. "Through protection of cultural relics, we will further the Global Civilization Initiative and fully demonstrate the long history and rich legacies of the Chinese civilization," he said.

During the ceremony in Chengdu, the administration released a list of 10 recent examples of development related to cultural relics. The list includes Beijing's Shougang Park, a venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which demonstrated how to revitalize industrial heritage and contribute to modern life.

It mentions Shanghai where reforms were made in the management of privately owned cultural relics to facilitate the return of Chinese artifacts from overseas.

The Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Yunnan province, is a shining example of rural vitalization, according to the list.

During the ceremony, 15 individuals and 11 organizations, including relic conservators, volunteers, police officers and firefighters, were congratulated for being "excellent guardians of cultural relic safety".

A three-month exhibition, titled The Splendor of Chinese Civilization in Writing, also opened at Chengdu Museum on Saturday. The exhibition traces the origins and evolution of Chinese characters through the display of 220 priceless relics on loan from 40 museums nationwide, ranging from oracle bones and inscribed bronze ware to calligraphic masterpieces.

Sanxingdui artifacts

Symposiums on recent scientific and technological developments in cultural heritage protection were held on Friday and Saturday in Chengdu to mark the occasion.

Chen Xingcan, director of the Institute of Archaeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, spoke on the nationwide project to trace the origins of the Chinese civilization at Friday's symposium. About 5,800 years ago, various regions in China had social class divisions, which indicated the beginning of civilization, he said.

Chen shed more light on the Sanxingdui Ruins in Guanghan, Sichuan province, which is considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century, at the symposium. New carbon dating results of 200 samples unearthed from the site indicate they are from between 1120 BC and 1016 BC, he said.

In 1986, two "sacrificial pits "filled with bronze and gold relics were discovered at Sanxingdui, which earned the site global attention. Six more pits, each a treasure trove of cultural relics, have been unearthed there since 2020.

The Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute announced on Saturday that 3D modeling and auxiliary artificial intelligence technologies are being adopted to piece together the puzzle about these relics, which were found decades apart.

A laboratory project jointly conducted by the institute and tech company Tencent has come to the conclusion that a bronze ritual vessel, known as zun, found in 1986, a kneeling human statue found in 2021 and a mythical animal statue unearthed in 2022 were all part of the same artifact.

At least five fragmented artifacts from Sanxingdui have been pieced together with the help of digital technologies, the institute revealed. Digital restoration of relics will provide key clues and help further decode ancient customs, traditions and beliefs, it said in a statement.

Ma Bin, vice-president of Tencent, said that more joint projects are on the cards to explore how AI technology can be used to improve archaeological studies and conservation efforts.

In 2006, the State Council, China's cabinet, announced that every second Saturday of June will be celebrated as Cultural Heritage Day. In 2017, the day was renamed as the Cultural and Natural Heritage Day.

Around 7,200 events were organized nationwide to mark the occasion this year. In Beijing, a "world heritage protection and promotion week" was launched on Saturday by the Palace Museum to host a series of education programs for elementary and high school students.

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