16 May 2010

Renewed interest in the past in China

8:00 am on 16 May 2010

Recent years have seen China modernise its cities at breakneck speed. But there is a renewed interest in the past and people are starting once again to celebrate their long and colourful history.

The city of Datong in northern China has started a massive project to rebuild its 14th century city walls.

The BBC reports Datong is a polluted, industrial city known for its coal mines and its manufacturing plants.

It was once an important metropolis and served as an imperial capital for a brief period 1500 years ago.

Officials are now trying to recapture some of that glory by rebuilding Datong's 14th century city wall.

Craftsmen are putting the finishing touches to the eastern part of Datong's square city wall.

Workers have so far restored only one side: the new section stretches for about 2km with watchtowers placed every 200 metres.

However, the un-restored sections of the wall look very different to the new parts.

Modern equipment and modern materials are being used: the old wall is simply being encased in the new one.

Datong's city government is also rebuilding temples, restoring old shop fronts and cleaning up the streets in a project that aims to be finished by 2012.

Tourism expert Wei Xiaoan said the city was not the only one in China looking to freshen up its industrial image.

Many local leaders now wanted to emphasise a city's uniqueness - which sometimes means sprucing up the past.

Confucius institutes

The BBC reports that since the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976, China is more comfortable with its past - and is now actively celebrating it.

Datong, and other places are now keen to remember a time when China really was the greatest nation on earth.

Beijing has set up hundreds of Confucius institutes across the world over the last few years to promote Chinese language and culture.