With this year marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, better protection of heritage related to the revolutionary years is being called for in order to do a better job of imparting history to the young.
Consequently, in Beijing on March 19, the National Cultural Heritage Administration released China’s first county-specific list of conservation areas for cultural heritage of revolutionary memorial importance.
“President Xi Jinping once stated that our republic is red and we can never let the color fade away,” said Gu Yucai, deputy director of the administration, at a news conference.
“We need to think of our origin when celebrating the 70th anniversary. People from the old revolutionary bases cannot be forgotten.”
The list covers 645 counties in 20 provincial-level administrative regions, grouped in 15 areas nationwide. Among those areas, 13 were Communists’ revolutionary bases during the war from 1927 to 1937 against Kuomintang-led forces.
The other two were headquarters of the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army, both led by the Communist Party of China to fight against the Japanese invaders from 1937 to 1945.
The biggest of the 15 areas is in the region of Jiangxi, Guangdong, and Fujian provinces and includes 101 counties. The region was the country’s central revolutionary area in the early 1930s.
According to the cultural heritage administration’s plan, the comprehensive and coordinated conservation of important revolutionary areas will go beyond today’s administrative borders.
“Most construction in the area, which were sites of crucial revolutionary activity, were only farmhouses built of plain materials,” Gu said. “Many of them are not in good condition today despite their relatively short history.”
In 2018, the Guangdong provincial government created a five-year plan to allocate 300 million yuan ($44.7 million) annually for conservation of revolutionary heritage resources. Anhui province set aside 200 million yuan for conservation.
Previously, central government expenditures were used only for conservation of key cultural heritage sites of national-level protection, and provincial and county-level sites would be taken care of by local governments, Gu said.
But the latest plan would enable the central treasury to sponsor conservation of all cultural heritage sites in revolutionary bases, regardless of their designated level.
Gu said there is a need for sustainable development given that the program will also benefit the country’s campaigns to revitalize the countryside and alleviate poverty.
“Better protection of heritage will always be the priority,” he said. “But exhibitions and publicity regarding history are also crucial.”
As part of the plan, measures will also be taken to improve tourism related to revolutionary heritage, including improvement of tourism infrastructure. Over 800 million visits were made to these heritage sites in 2018, but Gu said better guidance is also needed.
“The older generation of revolutionaries were known for their strong spirit and simple lifestyles,” Gu said. He warned about the temptation to build grandiose and ostentatious architecture near revolutionary heritage sites as auxiliary facilities.
“We have to make sure things don’t go wrong when we remember the revolutionaries’ legacy,” he said.
He promised a rigid approval process for such new facilities.
Lu Qiong, director of the policy office at the National Administration of Cultural Heritage, said construction of too many memorial edifices in the same revolutionary area would be avoided, thanks to the new list emphasizing coordination.
She also said new documentaries about revolutionary heritage sites and more online digital exhibitions displaying related artifacts will be launched this year.
“Exhibitions with revolutionary themes can be done in a better way,” Lu said. “That compels us to explore the in-depth cultural meanings of the sites with new methods of publicity.”