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Kulangsu Island: Saving historical relics by means of World Heritage Nomination.[2016-09-03]

    Kulangsu Island, located at the sea areas west to Xiamen City, is also known as “A Garden of the Sea” and “World Architecture Exhibition”。
    For many people, Kulangsu Island used to be a beautiful vacationland: the splendid exotic atmosphere, the blue sea and white sand, and the harmonizing buildings of traditional Chinese style and western style. But now, “History”, “Culture” and “Relics” are making the 1.91-square-kilometer land more and more important.
    On February 2016, China officially recommended Kulangsu Island as the item for the World Cultural Heritage Nomination in 2017. Renovation and promotion of the key elements for World Heritage Nomination is the top priority of Kulangsu Island this year.
    When approaching at the crossroads of Shichang Road and Haitan Road, one would be attracted by a red-brick mansion named as Huang Family Ancestral Hall.
    Huang Family Ancestral Hall: Before the renovation Photoed by Shang Hao, reporter from Xinhua News Agency
    Zheng Chongwei, a 55-year-old aboriginal, whose house is not more than 10 meters away from the Huang Family Ancestral Hall. Here embraces many memories of him: playing, sugarcane drying, woodworking, water fetching and so on.
    “I remembered that it used to be a warren and several families lived here,” said Zheng Chongwei.
    Now, after three months’ renovation, the used-to-be-a-warren reappears its true nature, that is the original appearance in Qing Dynasty. Entering the Huang Family Ancestral Hall, a clean courtyard lead to the main hall, and a wood plaque with four gilt words “Song Yun Li Jie” is hanged over the hall.
    The renovation of cultural relics is a kind of exhibition of local citizens for their historical culture. And for Zheng Chongwei, what has been changed is not only the layout or the environment of the Huang Family Ancestral Hall, but also his cognition about this building, about its history.
    Huang Family Ancestral Hall: Before the renovation. The photo is provided by Administrative Committee of Kulangsu
    In 1842, Xiamen was opened up as one of the treaty ports after China and Britain Opium War. David Abeel, one of the first American Protestant missionaries to arrive at Kulangsu, once lived here and opened a simple clinic.
    “I used to know that it was an ancestral hall, but I have no idea that American Protestant missionary had been here before,” said Zheng Chongwei.
    Zhongde Taoist Temple is used to worship gods in the folk beliefs of Southern Fujian. The rough grounds were reconditioned and the inscription for more than four hundred years was maintained. The idled Former A.R.C.M. Girls' Middle Schools was reformed to an exhibition room to show the education journey of Kulangsu Island and the stories of famous female educationist such as Lin Qiaozhi and Zhou Shu’an.
    Huang Family Ancestral Hall in the late Qing Dynasty. The photo is provided by Administrative Committee of Kulangsu.
    Nowadays, 53 key elements of cultural relics in Kulangsu Island have been renovated, and the Heritage Monitoring and Management Center and Archives Center also have been established to carry on long-term protection for these elements. Like Zheng Chongwei, many residents in Kulangsu Island have known the cultural connotation containing in these relics for the first time.
    “For a long time, many people know Kulangsu Island because of its beautiful scenery.” Wu Yongqi, an expert of literature and history and researcher in the history of Kulangsu Island, said, “Kulangsu Island is specimens of Marine Culture in ancient China and witnesses the communication between China and western countries, and also the miniature of China’s modernization course. It brought together the local culture, concession culture and culture of overseas Chinese, and gave birth to many talented people. It is a great pity to neglect those historical and cultural factors.
    China’s largest cliff inscription is Sanhe Taoist Temple which recorded the celestial queen Mazu. For a long time, it has been a ‘paradise’ of weeds and debris. The photo is provided by Administrative Committee of Kulangsu.
    Overall renovation on city quarter and municipal infrastructure, road repair and greening and beautifying project are on the way except restoring historical buildings. With the progress of applying for the World Heritage, digging out and fully displaying the cultural connotations of the historical stories behind the buildings are the common aspirations of the citizens in Kulangsu Island.
    In the summer of 2017, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will review on this island. It has entered into the critical period of applying for the world heritage; Zheng Chongwei and Wu Yongqi are full of hope.
    “We expect it to win the bid, and thus we can have a better understanding of the island and protect it. As a result, we can develop tourism and preserve our culture at the same time.” Said Wu Yongqi.
    “Applying for the World Heritage is not our aim, but protecting Kulangsu Island is.” “We hope to protect valuable historical relics and sites, and inherit the essence of history and culture of this island as well as conserve the cultural diversity of international community,” said Cai Songrong, the Deputy Director of the Heritage Monitoring and Management Center of Kulangsu Island.
    Visitors have a rest in the shade before a newly renovated Sanhe Taoist Temple cliff carvings.