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Print Edition> Forum
UPDATED: November 22, 2010 NO. 47 NOVEMBER 25, 2010
Are Profits Good Reason for Rebuilding a Long-lost Kingdom?

Social benefits as well as economic benefits should both be taken into account when developing the economy. An imagined Yelang Kingdom may be appealing to some officials but not necessarily to tourists. As for where the money should come from, how the money should be managed and what the economic benefits will be, people should carefully study the feasibility of the project. Rushing forward with the project is a form of conceit that ignores facts and long-term development issues.

Yang Guodong (The Beijing News): There aren't many records about the Yelang Kingdom. It mainly exists in people's imaginations; there really aren't many historical materials or cultural relics to which one can refer. The planned rebuilding of the Yelang Kingdom won't have many advantages over the many tourist attractions today that employ ancient-looking architecture. Using Yelang culture to get tourists to accept this project is probably just wishful thinking.

Local governments that do anything they can to grab cultural resources may make their area famous, but they actually do not create any positive public image for their area—such as might derive from having abundant historical and cultural resources. Rebuilding projects worth hundreds of millions of yuan or even billions of yuan amaze people. But they mainly cause people to worry about the financial capability of local governments. If the imitated ancient architecture doesn't attract tourists and the huge investment can't be recouped, what can officials do in the aftermath? Instead of spending so much money on constructing buildings for ancient people who are long dead or may never have existed, Xinhuang should use the money for improving people's livelihood.

Cities with genuinely rich historical and cultural legacies don't need to contend with others. Ancient people thousands of years ago can't bring any glory or fame to today's cities. The image of a city ultimately depends on its achievements. Shenmu County in Shaanxi Province, which has offered free medical care for local residents, is not the home of any famous people nor did it serve as a kingdom capital. But it's the most admirable county in China. Since ordinary people have received real benefits, the city brand of Shenmu has gained nationwide fame. Instead of taking a shortcut by spending huge amounts of money to be known as the home of some celebrity, local governments should earnestly solve problems related to the people's livelihood by providing better public services. In that way, they can use the praise of the public to gain the upper hand in the fiercely competitive war among cities to market themselves.

Wang Pan (Bohai Morning Post): There are two kinds of forgery in archaeology: One is conducted by today's people and the other by ancient people. If ancient people create something fake to deceive today's people—it's still fake. Some people wildly go about building tourist attractions of alleged historical significance; sometimes people even go ahead and build without any evidence or basis. After a long period of time, however, how will our descendants be able to tell the fake from the real?

If ancient people were irresponsible to later generations; if they battled over cultural heritage in order to make money off it; if ancient people randomly created ancient kingdoms and ancient cultures, then is our cultural heritage still pure? Absolutely not. In contrast, we are just a moment in human history. After we become fossils and become the past, how will future generations judge the fake culture we have created for economic reasons? They will certainly say it's a forgery—just one counterfeited by ancient people.

Room for tolerance

Chen Lihua (www.chinanews.com.cn): In the past few years, there have been many cases of locales contending over ancient cultural sites or where a famous person's birthplace was. In my opinion, these disputes don't hurt anything but boost the development and protection of cultural heritage. We can imagine that when disputes occur, each side will present more evidence to prove itself correct. Meanwhile, they will both pay more attention to cultural development in order not to lose the edge in the argument.

From this perspective, Xinhuang wants to invest 5 billion yuan to rebuild the Yelang Kingdom, hoping to create a tourist attraction that combines Yelang culture and unique natural resources. As long as the project has been scientifically discussed and won local people's support, the project is worthy of our encouragement.

Chen Siwei (China Business Times): Actually, there's nothing essentially wrong with Xinhuang trying its best to create a brand and build up its tourism industry. People living in rich places can hardly understand poor people's desire to cast off poverty and become prosperous. Since you don't know how poor they are and can't know what kind of life they lead, you can't truly and fully understand them. A remote county, with no particular advantages, deserves our tolerance of its attempt (although pie in the sky) to change its present condition as long as its behavior doesn't hurt others.

In China, people always judge a man by his victory or defeat. There was a time when merchants from Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province traveled around the country to make money, with lots of them being shoe cobblers or barbers and so on. They were once discriminated against nationwide. Now, however, some Wenzhou business people have become really successful. Therefore, fewer and fewer people laugh at them, while more and more people praise this striving spirit.

Why can't we look at Xinhuang's plan to rebuild the Yelang Kingdom as a manifestation of this kind of daring, enterprising behavior? Is it too much to ask for more tolerance?

Liu Zhiquan (Beijing Times): The Yelang Kingdom really existed in history; it has nothing to do with deceit. Therefore, from the perspective of commercial marketing, it totally makes sense to use this well-known historical and cultural theme to integrate and package relevant resources and promote them to the public.

From another standpoint, whether the Yelang Kingdom used to be in Xinhuang is a cultural debate. Due to the kingdom's short existence and the limited amount of surviving materials, it's hard to reach a final conclusion. However, since Xinhuang has been known as "Yelang" for a long time, there must be some basis for that.

The main problem associated with the development of the tourism industry is whether natural or cultural resources will be destroyed in the process. This is also one of the main concerns of the public concerning the development of cultural heritage-centered tourism, and indicates why there is a need for strong supervision from government departments. As for whether the 5-billion-yuan investment has gone through a scientific budget-making process, that's a topic totally separate from the dispute regarding the Yelang Kingdom.

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