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Scholars help to protect Afghan heritage

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-08-23 08:21

The Buddhas of Bamyan.[Photo/Xinhua]

In central Afghanistan's Bamyan Valley, where stands the famous Buddhas of Bamyan, Abdul Bashir Hemmat was selling tickets for the cultural site inside a cool ticket office instead of in the scorching sun. However, that has not always been the case.

"In the past, we worked in the sun, snow and rain," Hemmat says. Things have changed for the better after two ticket offices, which also function as cultural heritage conservation workstations in the daytime, and security guard stations at night, were completed and put into use in May.

They are "built with the assistance of our Chinese friends", and "useful for us and for tourists", Hemmat says, while expressing his gratitude to a group of young scholars from China's Peking University, Lanzhou University, Wenzhou University, the Central Academy of Fine Arts and the Hong Kong-based nonprofit Friends of Dunhuang, who have financed the construction.

Bamyan province is famous for its cultural heritage, particularly the two well-known giant Buddhas. The statues, 53 meters and 35 meters in height, with thousands of caves of monk statues around them, are over 1,500 years old, reminders of the Buddhist civilization in the region.

In 2003, the Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamyan Valley was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nonetheless, due to years of war and economic hardship, caves in Bamyan Valley were not curated or cleaned for a long time, let alone furnished with any visitor information. The situation, which badly hindered the protection and further archaeological research at the site, has since been reversed.

"With our specific suggestions and financial support, most of the caves near the Buddha site have been officially numbered and installed with information plaques," says Shao Xuecheng, a member of Friends of Dunhuang.

"In this way, should any artifact be in urgent need of protection, security personnel will know which of the caves to rush to," Shao adds.

In addition, the Chinese scholars funded a program to teach local children how to preserve cultural heritage.

"I'm thankful to our Chinese friends for providing training and assisting the children in learning how to protect and preserve the cultural heritage for the future," says Ahmad Ali Hussianyar, a local archaeologist.

"Our Chinese friends have provided us with real help, and we are very grateful," says Mawlawi Saifurahman Mohammadi, Bamyan provincial director for information and culture department.

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