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Various Historic Sites on Kulangsu Restored to Former Appearance and Become Popular Places for Leisure [2016-10-06]
    Many of Kulangsu’s historic buildings which have fallen into poor condition with the passage of time have been fully restored to their former glory, shining again as cultural landmarks on the island. With their former appearance restored, many of the historic buildings and sites have become popular leisure spots for local residents, as well as tourist attractions, all thanks to the cultural reinvigoration and utilization program.
    The Zhongde Taoist Temple, which used to be the core of the traditional village, has been converted into a civic culture square. On the stage in the square, traditional operatic plays are presented from time to time. The area below the largest extant cliff stone inscription in Xiamen, which recounts the story of the restoration of the Sanhe Taoist Temple on Kulangsu, has been built into a leisure park with lush greenery.
    Zhongde Taoist Temple
    Newly Renovated Temple
    Before Renovation
    A 400-year-old native temple in disrepair in chaotic surroundings
    No talks of folk faiths among Kulangsu residents would be complete without the mention of the storied Zhongde Taoist Temple. Dating back to the early 17th century, the temple is a shrine for the worship of "Dadaogong", Wu Tao, the god of health and safety in Southern Fujian. As an ancient native temple, it is a living fossil of Kulangsu’s cultural pluralism.
    The temple, sitting in the heart of the traditional village on Kulangsu, used to be the main place for local folks to get together. "On the anniversaries of the birth and passing of Dadaogong, grand sacrificial ceremonies were staged here. Aside from Dadaogong, deities such as the Goddess of Childbirths, Nezha and the God of Land were also worshipped here, reminding local folks to do good to others, hence the name of the temple ‘Zhongde’ (literally, ‘instilling morality’)," said Wu Yongqi, a historian with the Kulangsu World Heritage Status Bidding Office. Located in a secluded spot under towering ancient banyan trees, the temple is a fine example of temple architecture typical of southern Fujian.
    At the turn of the Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China period, Xiamen was ravaged by cholera. As the Zhongde Taoist Temple contained many prescriptions prepared by Dadaogong, many people came here for advice; as a result, the fame of the temple spread far and wide. In the 19th century, with the arrival of Western missionaries on Kulangsu, local traditional faiths declined, while medical resources increased; consequently, the Zhongde Taoist Temple had few visitors.
    Prior to the renovation, the centuries-old Zhongde Taoist Temple was situated in disorderly surroundings. The 400-year-old steles were in bad shape, an illegally constructed structure sat atop the "Longevity"-inscribed rock in the square, and the opera stage, which dates back to the Qing Dynasty, was in disrepair. Moreover, the ground in the square was potholed and turned muddy in rainy days, and the single- and double-storey old houses along the street had haphazardly mounted security meshes and awnings.
    After Renovation
    Newly Built Civic Culture Square
    Traditional Cultural Ethos Restored
    With the renovation, the area around the Zhongde Taoist Temple has been given a facelift. Based on photographs from the bygone era, officials have rebuilt an opera stage in the square in the style compatible with the temple. In addition, the square has been repaved and landscaped. Illegal constructed structures around the temple have been removed, allowing the Western-style architecture on the side of the temple to show itself and to complement the antiquated temple. The temple epitomizes the blend of Chinese and Western cultures on the island.
    The restoration of the temple is focused on the renovation of its roof and the maintenance of its architecture. Following the restoration, the temple has a spacious and neat square in front of it, surrounded by lush trees, highlighting highlights the sense of nature and antiquity.
    Traditional southern Fujian plays will be presented on the opera stage in the civic culture square in front of the temple to recreate the traditional cultural ethos of the island. As a traditional place of worship, the temple will also host large-scale religious events related to folk culture.
    Sanhe Taoist Temple Record
    Cliff Inscription
    The inscription on the face of the cliff inspires nostalgia.
    Before Renovation
    View of the cliff inscription, the largest one of its kind in Xiamen, was obstructed by illegally constructed structures.
    Engraved on the gigantic boulder is an episode of history. Located near the building at 57 Guxin Road on Kulangsu, the cliff inscription recounting the restoration of the Sanhe Taoist Temple was made in 1813 during the reign of Qing Emperor Jia Qing. According to historical records, during the Qing Dynasty, Wang Delu, commander-in-chief of the Fujian Navy, stationed his troops on Kulangsu and built warships in the shipyard in front of the Sanhe Taoist Temple for campaigns against the rebels headed by Cai Qian. After putting down the rebellion, Wang ordered a renovation of the Sanhe Taoist Temple and wrote a "Record on the Renovation of the Sanhe Taoist Temple on Kulangsu", which was subsequently inscribed on the face of the cliff. The inscription measures about 11.5 meters by 6.4 meters, making it the largest cliff inscription in Xiamen.
    The Sanhe Taoist Temple has been long gone, but thanks to the cliff inscription, the temple is ingrained on the memory of many local residents. Despite the renovation by Wang, the temple failed to sustain its popularity and was eventually renamed "Fahai Court". Later on, the site of the temple was purchased by a foreigner, and over time, the temple fell into oblivion.
    Mr. Lin, a Kulangsu resident, reminisced about the cliff inscription before the renovation. He said: "Some people built houses to the left of the cliff inscription, and there were a couple of illegal structures on the slope as well. Local residents thought it was inappropriate to build houses on the site of a former temple, but they were unable to talk down the builders. As a consequence, the site was surrounded by illegal houses, and people had to go around and climb up the slope on the other side to see the whole inscription. Few people realized that this was a historical site." He pointed out that the banyan trees by the cliff have twisted branches as they were blocked by the illegal houses.
    After Renovation
    A full view of the cliff inscription; the lovely park has become a popular leisure spot.
    Thanks to the renovation and enhancement program, the structures around the cliff inscription have all been removed, allowing the grand inscription to be shown fully to visitors. Moreover, the surroundings have been dramatically improved as well, with the terrace landscaped and lush trees all around. Today, the site is a lovely small park attracting a steady stream of visitors.
    "The cliff inscription inspires nostalgia," said Mr. Lin. The renovation work has not only preserved Kulangsu’s cultural heritage and memories of history, but also enriched the leisure life of local residents, something appreciated by local people.
    ●Cai Songrong, deputy director of Kulangsu World Cultural Heritage Monitoring and Management Center
    Enriching the features of the humanistic community with an overall improvement of the general environment
    In the renovation and enhancement program, the emphasis is placed on the restoration of the historic buildings and sites to their former appearance and on the development of public infrastructure. For example, in the renovation of various famous tourist attractions, such as the Zhongde Taoist Temple and the cliff inscription, we seek to restore the historical looks of the sites and to combine the preservation of historic buildings with the provision of more leisure spots for local residents.
    The renovation covers not only the major attractions but also public facilities. For instance, roadways around the park at the interaction of the streets have been renovated and landscaped, and even the concealed underground pipelines have been upgraded. In the renovation work, we not just focus on a few buildings and attractions, but strive for an overall improvement of the general environment to enhance the environment for local residents’ cultural life and to enrich the features of Kulangsu as a humanistic community.
    ● Zhang Shengyi, a long-term Kulangsu resident –
    The best form of preservation is sound utilization.
    Xiamen people have special, deep feelings for historical stories, figures and objects, especially Kulangsu residents. Each long-term Kulangsu resident is supposed to be a ‘gold-medal guide’ for tours of the island. I’ve recently returned to Kulangsu after being away for a long time, and I’m amazed to see that many historic buildings and venues have been restored to their former appearance, bringing back fond memories. The best form of preservation is sound utilization.