Monday, June 16, 2008

Restoring something to actually look orginal!

Today, i read the following:
Visitors from around the world can now leisurely savor China's traditional architectural beauty at the Imperial College in Beijing, about 400 years after the first foreign students were sent there to sit tough Chinese exams.

The school, and the adjacent Confucian Temple, were formally re-opened on Saturday after three years' renovation.

Though, the reopening of Confucian Temple which is one of the best places in Beijing that no-one goes to (it is 1 minute away from the Lama Temple which everyone goes to), is good news, it is not the exciting part, which is:

The project aimed to reinforce and repair the centuries-old structures while keeping them "as original as possible," said Yu Ping, vice head of the Beijing Municipal Administrations of Cultural Heritage.

"We did not repaint the ancient patterns on the beams or remove the faded glazed tiles on the roofs because we do not want to lose the antique flavor," she said.

After the face-lifts, the two sites are now basically what they were in olden times, in terms of the layout and scale, Yu added.

Wow. This must be the first time any historic attraction has not been 'restored' by being freshly painted looking to look like it was only just finished! I have yet to go visit the 'restored' Temple but I cannot wait to see if it is true. If it is I might just agree with the comment:

The temple, which looks very authentic, is what I expected to see here in China," said Vishal Shorma, a Singaporean tourist.

Could this be a turning point for Chinese tourist attraction restoration work? Could China finally be realising that the beauty in ancient sites is lost once it becomes 'brand new' again, and that foreigners can only value how old China is if China actually looks old! Too many times, and i really mean, TOO MANY times have I seen re-painted monuments, statues, temples, shrines and everything else besides and not only does it annoy me, it makes all these repainted attractions look identical!

On a less happy note, China has, in the last few months changed its visa regulations with particularly bad timing, bad communications and illogical explanations. It seems they want to 1) keep 'bad' people out of China who might cause trouble during the Olympics and b) make it harder for foreigners to work in China if they are taking away jobs from Chinese people.

Both reasons are fine, but the solutions are ridiculous. It is of course still relatively easy to get a tourist visa (and if you can come here for 30 days, that is enough time to cause trouble, surely?) but it is now very hard to come here for longer than that and this affects entrepreneurs, those working for charities or those working in SMEs, since the only other option is to get an official work visa (instead of a 'working visa' which is now no longer available) which requires an official company to apply on your behalf, much hassle and a trip back to one's home country to reapply for such visa.

If they want to make it harder for foreigners to work in China, that is fine (though slightly crazy bearing in mind how dependent China is on foreign trade), but why make the changes with only 2 month's notice and why before the Olympics, whilst everything else is happening, and why not tell people, and why not universally implement the regulations (every different visa office around the world, or 'visa extension' office in different cities in China are translating the confusing regulations differently)?

It has led to a drop in tourism, it has led to people jumping ship to hang out in hong kong or Thai beaches for the summer and it has even led people to just going home and finding jobs elsewhere. It is just crazy, though fortunately does not affect me (touch wood)!


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