China Losing Its Past?

China Losing Its Past?

One more nail in the coffin of history, China’s lack of concern for their heritage sites has ended in the destruction and disappearance of thousands of them.  Of the 765,000+ registered sites, around 44,000 have been destroyed in the last 20 years and another 25% of those that remain are falling apart.  The question comes to mind as to how and why so many important pieces of the past could be neglected so thoroughly as to leave them in complete devastation.

The big villain in this story is, as always, economic expansion.  Construction of new projects has resulted in the demolition of several sites, despite the fact that there special groups assigned to protect them.  These groups have been incredibly ineffective at performing their jobs when facing down the onslaught of progress.  What’s worse is that many of these sites appear to have been destroyed without any rational explanation at all.  Also, there is a rash of lootings which further compromises them.  The new breed of looter is not your typical treasure hunter either, but is usually involved in organized groups who cater to dealers and 

collectors of artifacts worldwide.

The Chinese government has voiced a desire to preserve the cultural heritage of the country, though in practice this doesn’t seem to be working out too well.  Trying to guard hundreds-of-thousands of sites is an expensive and almost impractical task.  No matter how many people are assigned to protect them, there will always be those who ignore their duties or, worse yet, take bribes to look the other way while the sites are pillaged.

So many destroyed sites are bringing to light the debate between the importance of preserving the past and the need to think about the future.  One thing is for sure – if China does not find a solution to this problem, they can expect to lose a great deal more of these sites, and their historical heritage, with each passing year.