Ancient monument at risk

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 February, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 February, 1994, 12:00am

I HAVE received an urgent letter from Professor Chen Zhihua of Tsinghua University in Beijing, informing me that the development project which will destroy the thousand-year-old Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes has already begun.

Under this project, a large number of trees in front of the Grottoes will be cleared, so that tourists can take photographs, and temples and gates built in the Qing Dynasty, will be demolished, in order to fit the master landscape plan. This will entail building a three-star hotel in front of the Grottoes, with a car-park and restaurant, wax figures inside and outside the Grottoes, and avenues lined with stone animal sculptures. There will also be recreation halls. This project would turn the whole area into some cheap version of Disneyland. The trees to be felled were planted at the end of the last century to prevent the Grottoes from weathering by wind and sand storms. They were part of the ecological system around the Grottoes and if removed would pose a serious threat to the monument which is a treasure not only for the PRC, but for all mankind.

It is therefore the duty of every individual to express concern for its safety and to urge the authorities to proceed with caution with the project.

DESMOND HUI Senior Lecturer Department of Architecture University of Hong Kong