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China-funded project helps preserve cultural heritage in Pakistan

Xinhua 2024-05-18 15:10:23 阅读量:

Aerial photo taken on May 5, 2024 shows the archaeological site of the ancient Buddhist monastery Takht-i-Bahi, a UNESCO world heritage site, in northwest Pakistan's Mardan district. (Xinhua/Ahmad Kamal)

Pakistan is rich in cultural heritage with a large number of historical cultural sites sprawling across the South Asian country. China and Pakistan take an extra mile to preserve the sites, including Takht-i-Bahi, under the Guardians of Gandhara program run by Chinese and Pakistani scholars and volunteers.

by Raheela Nazir

ISLAMABAD, May 18 (Xinhua) -- Walking up the stone stairs ascending to the archaeological site of an ancient Buddhist monastery Takht-i-Bahi, Muhammad Haasan immersed himself in Buddhist history and culture as the exceptionally well-preserved majestic beauty of ruins bewildered the teenager.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Takht-i-Bahi, one of the most prestigious Buddhist religious establishments in the ancient Gandhara region, is located in the country's northwest Mardan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

Pakistan is rich in cultural heritage with a large number of historical cultural sites sprawling across the South Asian country. China and Pakistan took an extra mile to preserve the sites, including Takht-i-Bahi, under the Guardians of Gandhara program run by Chinese and Pakistani scholars and volunteers.

Students visit the archaeological site of the ancient Buddhist monastery Takht-i-Bahi, a UNESCO world heritage site, in northwest Pakistan's Mardan district, on May 5, 2024. (Xinhua/Ahmad Kamal)

"Every two weeks I come here with at least 50 students to learn about the Buddhist monastery, stupas, kings and their residential facilities. Our teachers have also organized tours to other museums in various cities and teach us about civilizations and historic sites," said the 13-year-old student of the heritage conservation classes launched under the Guardians of Gandhara program.

"With the help of China, we will protect and conserve the heritage sites for future generations as the heritage sites are the connection to our history, community and identity," the student said.

"The stories of ancient kings are very interesting. This archeological site provides us with important information as to how people about 2,000 years ago used to live, meditate and educate themselves. It's quite fascinating," said another student Tahira.

Tourists visit the archaeological site of the ancient Buddhist monastery Takht-i-Bahi, a UNESCO world heritage site, in northwest Pakistan's Mardan district, on May 5, 2024. (Xinhua/Ahmad Kamal)

Talking to Xinhua, Maaz Ali, a teacher and conservation assistant at the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, KP, said that the main purpose of various educational projects was to make locals living near archeological sites aware about the heritage sites of Pakistan and rebuild their connection with cultural heritage.

"Especially, young generation is in charge of Guardians of Gandhara as they will take a lead in preserving these important archeological sites of Pakistan in the future," he said.

According to him, Pakistani and Chinese teams have been working together on the restoration of various archeological sites in Pakistan, adding that more sites are being identified for the conservation work.

With restoration work done on several sites, Ali said that the number of tourists, especially Chinese and Japanese, have increased over the past years. "Thousands of tourists have been visiting the historical sites recently, injecting new impetus into the tourism sector of Pakistan and national development."

Tourists visit the archaeological site of the ancient Buddhist monastery Takht-i-Bahi, a UNESCO world heritage site, in northwest Pakistan's Mardan district, on May 5, 2024. (Xinhua/Ahmad Kamal)

As International Museum Day is observed on May 18, Pakistan sought cooperation with China to further strengthen the protection of cultural heritage.

The State Administration of Cultural Heritage of China and the National Heritage and Culture Division of Pakistan have signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly implement archaeology, cultural heritage protection and restoration, exhibition exchanges, and prevent illegal trafficking of relics.

Director of Archaeology and Museums of KP Abdul Samad told Xinhua that China always walks the talk and its commitment towards preserving cultural heritage in Asia is practical, highlighting that China is collaborating with Pakistani archaeologists to preserve and restore the archeological sites using modern technologies.

He said that Pakistan needs to further strengthen cooperation with China to protect heritage sites, maintain academic collaborations between universities and cultural heritage institutions in the two countries, and initiate joint scientific and technological preservation initiatives.

Samad believed that China's cultural heritage cooperation and exchanges programs with various countries including Pakistan are exemplary, adding that China's effective measures for harmonious coexistence of different civilizations set examples for the world.

Students visit the archaeological site of the ancient Buddhist monastery Takht-i-Bahi, a UNESCO world heritage site, in northwest Pakistan's Mardan district, on May 5, 2024. (Xinhua/Ahmad Kamal)

Chen Zhigang, associate professor at Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts and director of the Guardians of Gandhara program, said that China has established multi-level exchange relations with Pakistani governments, the archaeological bureau, museums and heritage sites.

Commenting on the future cooperation plans for the protection of cultural sites and relics of Pakistan, he told Xinhua that both countries need to further focus on tourism infrastructure improvement, basic maintenance, and archaeological excavation of sites.

Besides that, digitization of cultural heritage, joint scientific research projects as well as heritage education and cultural exchanges would be further encouraged in the future, he said.

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