On-site investigation to support the restoration of cultural properties damaged by the Great Sichuan Earthquake
An earthquake of magnitude 8 occurred in the Sichuan province of China, with the seismic center in Wenchuan-xian, on May 12, 2008. It was a catastrophic disaster that resulted in serious damages including deaths and fatalities due to the collapse of buildings and landslides. Sichuan province has a long history and many of its cultural properties were also seriously damaged. Following the dispatch of a team immediately after the earthquake in order to save lives, the Japanese government submitted a “support package” to the Chinese government listing the types of support that each ministry would be to provide. Response was received at the end of June, and it was decided to exchange Japanese and Chinese experts in order to support the restoration of cultural properties, a project proposed by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, conducted research from September 25 to 30. Focus was placed on collecting information in preparation for developing a specific plan for restoration activities that Japan would provide. For this purpose the current condition of damage was investigated and opinions were exchanged with local persons in charge of the protection of cultural properties. Although 4 months had passed since the earthquake occurred, traces of damage were still visible in the disaster-stricken area. For example, at some temple offices people were working in tents used during evacuation even though winter was approaching.
The following were decided during this visit and through discussions with experts.
1) Approximately 10 experts from Japan would visit Sichuan province and hold a seminar on the theme of protecting cultural properties from earthquakes, working with Chinese experts.
2) Mainly buildings and objects stored in muse-ums would be restored.
3) The time immediately after the 2009 lunar New Year (January 26) would be appropriate.
The Agency for Cultural Affairs has received the report of this investigation and is currently examining specific details.