10/23/2013, 00.00
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Liaoning: ancient Buddhist frescoes "restored" with cartoon-like Taoist paintings

by Wang Zhicheng
First reported on a blog, the case involves a company that was not qualified to carry out cultural heritage conservation. For many online, what happened was reckless. During the Cultural Revolution and Deng Xiaoping's modernisation, China's cultural heritage was also destroyed.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The authorities in Liaoning had Buddhist frescoes from the Qing dynasty "restored" with cartoon-like paintings based on Taoist myths. The botched work occurred in a hall built during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), which is part of a temple complex in Chaoyang that dates back to Liao period (916-1125). Ancient solemn frescoes were replaced with crudely made images in dazzling colours based on Taoist stories.

The story came to light after a blogger posted pictures of the frescoes before and after the "restoration". This unleashed a wave of ironic and sad comments about the loss of another piece of China's artistic heritage.

Some comments lambasted the total ignorance of the restorers; others lashed out at their recklessness.

Local tourist authorities were responsible for the mistake because they entrusted the "restoration" work to a firm unqualified in heritage conservation and restoration.

According to the Global Times, two tourist officials responsible for the Buddhist temple were sacked and the local party secretary was reprimanded.

Some people have suggested removing the "cartoons" that now dominate the Qing temple and restore the ancient frescoes.

The Liaoning case highlights a major problem in China. The country's vast cultural heritage was often burnt and thrown away (during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution for example), destroyed to make way for new modern buildings (in Beijing for example), or destroyed and replaced by garish replicas, like Old Shanghai, or turned into tourist attractions like some streets in the capital.


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