Treaty of Nanking

Ancient royal palace damaged by workers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 November, 2004, 12:00am

Archaeologists in Nanjing have discovered what they believe are ruins of a residence belonging to a 14th-century prince.

But construction workers have already destroyed a section of the ancient building which formed part of the royal palace.

Workers carrying out excavations on a construction site uncovered pillars believed to date to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644).

But the developer allowed work to continue, disregarding earlier orders from the city authorities responsible for cultural relics to handle any unusual findings on the site with care.

Local media estimated that about two-thirds of the residence of the former prince was destroyed despite warnings from archaeologists from the Nanjing Museum. Experts have identified the ruins as part of Nanjing's Ming Imperial Palace.

Museum officials said they had been overwhelmed by calls from the media but declined to comment on the case yesterday.

The construction site is near downtown Nanjing, only 500 metres from the palace. It covers an area of about 2,000 sq metres, and was originally set aside by the city government as a protected zone.

Experts from Nanjing Museum carried out a week-long field check before the developer started the project and did not find any hints of remains.

But museum archaeologists tried to halt the project on Sunday after the discovery.

Archaeologist Zhang Jinxi from the Nanjing Museum told a local newspaper that experts planned to file a formal application and start procedures to protect the site on Monday, but found they were too late.

The manager of the construction project blamed the experts for failing to find the ruins before work started.

'The ancient palace pillars were ignored by the museum,' he told the Nanjing Daily.

He said workers only received a verbal order to stop work, not a formal directive from authorities.