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Efforts accelerate to preserve war sites

Wang Kaihao
Updated: May 4,2015 8:42 AM     China Daily

The Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders received 34 historical relics of the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) from private donator Song Xiangdong (wearing white gloves) on Aug 15.[Photo/Xinhua]

Only 42 percent of historical sites related to the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) are “basically well-preserved,” a review by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage shows, while many sites are damaged. Forty-five percent are “partially damaged”, and 6.5 percent are “severely damaged”.

Consequently, four months ahead of the 70th anniversary of victory, Sept 3, the administration vowed to enhance the protection and preservation of war-related sites and artifacts for the benefit of future generations.

“The task is urgent,” said Li Xiaojie, director of the administration. “The protection of historical sites from that war, which was the first thorough victory over a foreign invader in recent Chinese history, is also a long-term project for education.”

According to Li, only about half of the country’s war-related historical sites open their gates to the public. Public visits are limited by administrative resources and property rights. About half the sites are now managed by different levels of cultural heritage administrations, and nearly 40 percent are used as Party or government office buildings.

Li promised that of the 186 major historical sites related to the war resisting Japanese invasion that are protected at the national level, all 113 managed by cultural heritage administrations will receive public visitors when renovations are completed at the end of August.

China spent 250 million yuan ($40.3 million) last year for the protection and renovation of war-related historical sites. The spending will reach 390 million yuan this year, representing a major increase over the 26 million yuan spent in 2005.

Last year, 47 major renovation projects began. One includes the preservation of relics in a heritage park related to the activities of the Imperial Japanese Army’s Unit 731, infamous for its development and use of biological and chemical weapons in Harbin, Heilongjiang province. The park may become China’s first World War II-related historical site to bid for recognition as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage.

By the end of April, 333 memorial exhibitions from 28 province-level administrative regions were registered. Official guidance for all major exhibitions nationwide will be released online in June.

“We should make a clear presentation showing the relationship between the war in China and other theaters of World War II through the exhibitions,” Li said.

“We should reflect the historical status that the Chinese people deserve in the fight against fascism. Descriptions of front-line and rear battlefields should also be balanced,” he said, referring to resistance led by the forces of the Communists and Kuomintang.

He expects more interactive approaches that will tell the story of the war better, but cautioned that a tendency toward light entertainment should be avoided.

The protection of China’s war heritage reaches beyond the administration of the central government.

In Chongqing, China’s temporary capital during World War II, a municipal regulation is being drafted specifically for protection of wartime historical sites.

In northeast China, where regional resistance against Japan began as early as 1931, an alliance including 105 institutions from Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang provinces, including cultural heritage administrations, universities and hospitals, was established to organize more than 100 memorial events this year.

Jilin University in Changchun will open portions of its buildings that served as offices of the “Manchukuo” — the puppet regime of the Japanese in northern China — to public visitors for the first time.

“Such cooperation crossing departments and geographical regions should be encouraged to promote preservation work and accelerate the process of unlocking more doors of wartime heritage for the whole society,” Li said.