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Tue, Oct 05, 1999 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan historic sites scrutinized

PICKING UP THE PIECES The government has allocated NT$25 million to restore historic sites that were left largely in ruins after the 921 earthquake

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Chichi Railway Station, built during the Japanese colonial period, was one of the many historic buildings damaged during the 921 earthquake.

PHOTO: LU CHUN-WEI, LIBERTY TIMES

The massive 921 earthquake not only claimed the lives of thou-sands of Taiwanese and their homes -- it left dozens of Taiwan's historic sites in ruins.

While an overall inspection of Taiwan's 388 national historic sites is being undertaken by the Ministry of Interior (MOI), some of the sites may unfortunately be gone forever because they were so severely damaged, according to the MOI's Civil Affairs director Chi Chun-chen (紀俊臣).

Among the damaged sites, the 200-year old Lin Family Gardens in Wufeng (霧峰林家), Taichung County, is on the verge of vanishing.

"Ninety percent of the wooden buildings were destroyed," Chi said, after checking the site with experts.

Ironically, according to Lin Cheng-chi (林澄枝), chairperson of the Council of Cultural Affairs, the government just finished renovation of the buildings at the site with a budget of NT$200 million. And it was scheduled for final checkup on Sept. 24.

The Lin family complex was owned by the wealthiest family in central Taiwan.

The complex, which covered 3,888 square meters, preserved many fine examples of Chinese-style architecture of the Ching dynasty. But the quake two weeks ago demolished nearly the whole area and claimed the lives of two members of the Lin clan.

"All that can be done now is to preserve the wooden relics and antiques left in the debris," Chi said. "We are still considering if we will rebuild the site or abolish it."

According to an initial estimate by the interior ministry, it could take more than NT$100 million to rebuild the complex.

Like the Lin mansion, the Lungshan Temple (龍山寺) in Lukan (鹿港), Chanhua County, was seriously damaged and will require NT$20 million to repair.

In Nantou County, three classical academies -- Mingshin (明新), Tengyen (登簷) and Lantien (藍田) -- were partly collapsed and will also require several millions of dollars for reconstruction, said Chi.

So far, the government has budgeted NT$250 million for emergency repair of damaged historic sites.

However, according to architect Yang Ren-chiang (楊仁江), even if the old buildings were repaired, they could hardly endure an earthquake measuring more than 5 on the Richter scale.

At the same time, both legislators and cultural heritage preservation groups urged the government take a closer look at other unregistered historical buildings.

DPP lawmaker Fan Shun-lu (范巽綠) said the clean-up and demolition work in the disaster area might also sweep away important cultural heritage sites, especially those not listed as historic by the government.

"As buildings with indicative red tape on them will be demolished within a week under the government's emergency decree, we are worried that those marked historic buildings will also be demolished," said Fan.

Among those buildings, the Chichi Railway Station (集集火車站) -- once a famous tourist spot -- was one of those dangerous buildings, according to Chiu Ru-hua (丘如華) of the Yaoshan Foundation (樂山文教基金會).

In response, Lin Cheng-chi has vowed to save the Chichi station from the wrecking ball.

"We will rebuild the station, and make it a symbol [of inspiration] to help the quake-stricken town stand up again," Lin said.

The Yaoshan Foundation has organized architectural scholars and students to form the League for 921 Reconstruction of Cultural Heritage.

So far, hundreds of professionals have gone to disaster sites for volunteer inspections.

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