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From: China Tibet Information Center 2007-12-17 18:13:00
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Status Quo on Preservation of Tibetan Cultural Relics and Development of Tibetan Museum


Steeping with history, Tibet preserves with the richest relics at both underground and over ground. At present, over 2000 relic sites in kinds are found in Tibet. Amongst them, 33 sites fall into the list of key sites for national protection; there are 178 organs at various levels embarking on preservation of relics; 55 organs of them are the ones at autonomous level and 96 at the municipality and county level. In Tibet, there are three cities under the name of historical cultural city; one place and three sites are included into the world cultural heritage locations. Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) has contributed greatly to preserve and develop the cultural heritage which obtained remarkable achievements. This paper is going to, while reviewing the past in terms of experience and achievements, explore the issues regard to Tibetan cultural preservation and development of Tibetan museum.

I. Course of Preservation and Development on Modern Tibetan Cultural Relics and Museum Works and Its Major Achievements

Since the peaceful liberation, TAR has been constantly insisting on the principle that is to put emphasis on preservation, rescue as the first priority, rational utilization and reinforced administration. It has made great efforts and obtained remarkable achievements on cultural relics' preservation and development. During the tenth five years plan, the government financed 360 millions RMB (Chinese currency) to projects related to cultural preservation and development, such as renovation, setting up storehouses, publication of articles, and building up the fire fighting infrastructure; The government also earmarked a big amount of gold and silver to those projects in Tibet. The course of Tibetan cultural relics, lasting almost half century, has mainly gained the achievements and experience as follows.

1. Conducting Research and Investigation on Ancient Cultural Sites through A Pragmatic Approach Provides Materials Supports for Further Study of Tibetan History

During 1978 and 1979, the Cultural Relics Administration Committee of TAR cooperated with several research institutes in hinterland and conducted investigations at Karub site in Chamdo. It is the first time of Tibet to find the neolithic cultural relics, dated back to 5000 -4000 years ago. And then, organs for cultural relics at both autonomous and prefecture level, by cooperated with hinterland research institutes, respectively found and studied the relics at Nyunda of Chamdo, Lieshan cemetery in Nyingchi, and Changgo site in Luoka. In 1997, by cooperation with the Cultural Relics Research Institute of Shanxi, the Cultural Relics Bureau of TAR studied at Sakya Chamble of Toling Monastery in Nygri. This is the first time of Tibet to integrate the relics' renovation project with archeological research. In 2003 and 2004, the Cultural Relics Bureau of TAR organized an archeological study along with the line of the Qinghai - Tibet railway, and totally found 37 relics sites. This is the first project which directly connected with the infrastructure project.

2. Putting Efforts on the Basic Works of Preservation and Administration and Enable Ethnic Cultural Relics to Have Effective Preservation and Development.

During the recent years, by consisting with the Law of Cultural Relics, the government departments and organs for cultural relics at different levels have been already labeled 178 sites for special care; they started to establish the basic system for file records in which it collects materials from sites where those has been included into the list of special care by organs at autonomous level or municipal level or county level. The system is planned to complete within two years; at present, the zone and contents for special care in four relics sites at national level protection have been identified; the government set up departments at different levels and designated persons to take specially care of those sites.

3. Stable Development of The Course of Tibetan Museum Fills in The Blank of Tibetan Cultural Relics

In October, 1999, the Tibetan Museum was opened that the government financed 100 millions RMB for its establishment, and various kinds of exhibitions under the name of Tibetan History and Culture were presented to the public. In 1994, funds were collected to build the Yalong Historical Museum in Lhoka. As the non - profit museum aiming to preserve, research, develop, and exhibit cultural relics and natural heritages, these two museums have been playing an exclusive and significant role on cultural education and inspiring people of the Chinese Nation through presenting them the ethnic Tibetan history, culture, and modern civilization.

4. Achievements and Publications of Research Extend The Effect of Education on Tibetan Cultural Relics.

While strengthening administration and preservation, the organs of cultural relics at regional level and below actively promotes intensive studies on cultural relics. They have published respectively the Report on Archeological Study at Karub Site of Chamdo , Report on Archeological Study at Chokong Site of Lhasa , Report on Renovation of Potala Palace , Report on Renovation of Cultural Rescue Project in Nygri ,  Potala Palace , Tibetan Thangga ,  the Cream of Tibetan Cultural Relics , Fresco of Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries and Temples. Tibetan Cliff Painting, Chinese Ancient Building - Potala Palace, Fine Pottery Preserved at Tibetan Museum, and Treasures. They also published Cultural Records for some municipality and counties like Lhasa Municipality and Nedong County.

5. Rational Utilization of Cultural Relics Plays A Significant Role to Introduce Tibet to Outside.

In November of 1985, the Cultural Relics Administrational Committee held the Tibetan Thangga Painting Exhibition in Guangzhou. Twenty Years later, TAR respectively held exhibitions in kinds and at different scales at Beijing, Yunan, Shanghai, Nanjin, Hong Kong, ect., in order to introduce Tibet to the other brotherhood provinces in China. In April of 1987, at Paris of France, an exhibition was also held under the name of Tibetan Treasures Thangga Exhibition, and then TAR organized cultural relics' exhibitions in Japan, Italy, Argentina, Korea, Canada, Belgium, the United States, Germany, ect., In particular, the exhibition held in the United States titled Treasures of the Snow Land - China Tibetan Cultural Relics Exhibition in October of 2003 and July of 2005, and the exhibition held in Germany with the name of  Fine Works of Tibetan Cultural Relics in August of 2006, were greatly successful.

6. Setting up Law and Working for Law Enforcement on Cultural Relics Provides Guarantees to Preservation and Development of Tibetan Cultural Relics

TAR government at all levels, while taking serious measures to carry out the Law and Regulations for Cultural Relics of the People's Republic of China, sketches out itself regulations and local law by taking consideration of the basic situation of TAR. In May of 1990, the Standing Committee of NPC of TAR declared the Byelaw for Administration of Preservation and Development of Cultural Relics of TAR, and then it was amended in July of 1996. Hereafter, the local governments respectively issued other regulations and byelaws, such as the Administrative Measures for Preservation of the Potala Palace (November, 1997), Proclamation on Preservation and Development of Cultural Relics in TAR (1998), ect. To issue and implement all these laws and regulations provides a guarantee for preservation and development of cultural relics in TAR.

II. Several Issues which Needs to Cope with in A Rational Way at The Modern Time

Due to the principal that we adopt is to put on emphasis on preservation, rescue as the first priority, rational utilization and reinforced administration, the preservation and administration are the preconditions, but development and utilization are the purpose; Preservation creates the condition for development, but development creates benefits for preservation. This is domino effect of value within the marketing oriented economy. How to conceptualize and rationally deal with the relationship between preservation and utilization It has become the urgent task for preservation and development for Tibetan cultural Relics. Therefore, the author is going to take consideration of the reality of Tibet to extend his views on four kinds of relationships between cultural relics' preservation and rational utilization.

1. Relationship between Tourism Industry and Cultural Preservation

Since the reform and opening up, in particular recent years, TAR has fully explored and utilized its unique ethnic culture in order to actively integrate its ethnic culture into diversified tourism. The rich cultural relics in Tibet has actually promoted and accelerated the development of tourism industry. In addition, TAR's initiatives provide extensive opportunities for scientifically and rationally utilizing the cultural heritages, and enable the cultural heritages to become the advantages for development of tourism and promote the economic and social development. It is predicted that, after the open of railway of Qinghai - Tibet, people entering Tibet every day will hit to 2.8 millions, and it will directly and indirectly influent the preservation and utilization of cultural relics and bring about the pressure and challenge to preservation and administration of Tibet cultural heritages.

It is necessary to avoid unfavorable situation to occur, such as overloaded responsibilities of relics' sites and over development and utilization of cultural heritages. For example, The Potala Palace is a well - known ancient palace. During the past years, no measures were set up which resulted in overloaded number of tourists and damaged some parts of building; In addition, some places built up the entertainment buildings or facilities which were not unsuitable with the historic sites, and resulted in the damage of the cultural sites.

For the purpose of rational utilization of the resources of cultural heritages and integration of the tourism development with cultural relics' preservation, on one hand, it is necessary to identify the different situations of those sites where the volume of tourists is big, and then microscopically regulate and control the number of tourists and duration for open. It needs to combine measures on the number of tourists in control and the duration for visits, and to shorten the duration for stay at sites. Such strategies need to be taken in order to make efforts to harmoniously integrate the requirements of tourism with cultural relics' preservation; on the other hand, it is necessary to strengthen the publicity of the sites where the current tourists are in small number, such as the Summer Palace, Tibetan Museum, ect., so that we could attract more and more tourists to visit and release the stress on the other sites.

2. Relationship between Construction of New Villages Program and Key Factors of Cultural Relics' Preservation

Damage on cultural relics occurring while turning the old cities into the new ones is a popular phenomenon in many historic cities around the world. Tibet is also facing the dilemma. In recent years, people made backout of the old and unique ethnic buildings at some small townships and villages for the purpose of reconstruction of new ones. To those areas where the well – known sites is situated, the contradiction between the reconstruction and preservation is in evidence. Hence, at the progress of construction of new villages, governments at different levels must attach importance to specially protect and rationally utilize those cultural resources in those unique ethnic and historical old ancient villages, and put emphasis on preservation of those historic folk buildings and key historic cultural sites. It is important to integrate the preservation of historic sites into the plan of construction of new villages. The strategies are, firstly, to keep the principle of preservation as the major task, and forbid to building a new one with the cost of damaging the historic cultural relics; secondly, while the law enforcement must be adopted, the construction of new villages must operate at the scope of cultural relics' preservation at the same time. Those old buildings, need to reconstruct, must follow the principles of building new one but keeping the old style, and enable the environment to consist with the historic style and features; thirdly, it needs to grasp the opportunity of building the new villages, fully take the exclusive advantages of cultural heritages to enrich the cultural contents in the socialism new villages, and service for their economic development.

In Tibet, the places with favorable environment and ecological situation are used to being the fragile places and  or border areas with the situation of poverty. The ecologic tourism will bring about the good opportunity for development. For the sake of appropriately solving the dilemma between reconstruction of civil houses in sites of cultural relics and preservation of cultural relics, the key point to build new villages is to deliver preferential policy to those poverty places, and put big efforts to develop the program, such as ecologic tourism, village tourism, and exploration tourism.

3. Relationship between Preservation on Material Cultural Heritages and Nonmaterial Heritages

The most significant and valuable heritages, as the common conception around the world, are labeled into three categories. They are the cultural heritage, the natural heritage, and oral culture and nonmaterial heritage. The carrier of material cultural heritage is tangible, but the carrier for the nonmaterial heritage is human beings.

Tibet is the border and residential place for ethnic group in China. In Tibet, to acknowledge and understand the nonmaterial cultural heritage is of important not only to implement the ethnic and religion freedom policies, but also put scientific ideology of development into effectiveness, and form a harmonious socialism society. The oral culture and nonmaterial culture, such as Tibetan songs and dance, folktale of King Gesar, folklore, Tibetan opera, ethnic customs, handcrafts, Tibetan religion, ect., are existing in TAR and other Tibetan inhabited areas in the neighbor provinces in China.

The nonmaterial cultural heritage in Tibet, just as the heritages existing at the other provinces in China, is called ethnic folk traditional culture. They are all facing the impacts from economic globalization and modernization. While making efforts to preserve the material cultural heritage, we must actively disseminate the knowledge of nonmaterial culture heritage, and try hardly to establish the social environment and positive atmosphere of public opinion. Currently, it is timely for us to start up to work for the Chinese ethnic folk culture, put preservation program into effectiveness, and pragmatically strengthen the communication and cooperation amongst the government agencies- and departments; we need also to explore the strategies, learn the experience from the past, and be creative on the progress of nonmaterial cultural heritage's preservation so that both material and nonmaterial culture heritages could be preserved and developed at the benign track.

4. Relationship between Conditions of Preservation and Scientific Approach of Preservation

Tibetan monasteries and organs for cultural preservation in the community have preserved a big number of cultural relics. Amongst those relics, Thangka, fresco, Buddhist statues, and religion implements, present a big proportion. However, there are common problems, such as backwards of infrastructure, unfavorable environment for preservation, poor administrative measures with low level of scientific approach, disadvantages on strategies, and funds shortage. Therefore, it is necessary to draft out the feasible plans and measures for administration with the central control, and authorize the museums at the upper levels to preserve and administrate the cultural relics for those organs where there is no favorable conditions to preserve the relics. In addition, effectively to implement the Law of Cultural Relics, we needs to clarify the relationship between the institutions embarking on archeological research and organs for preservation of cultural relics, and clarify the administrative system and operation mechanism; Moreover, it is necessary to work effectively to transfer the excavated relics in order to preserve those key cultural relics in the central storehouses and or museums at the levels of prefecture and municipality where favorable conditions are provided.

Scientific approach is needed to adopt through enhancing knowledge. During the eleventh five years plan, TAR will further promote and complete the construction of the cultural relics' storehouses, various kinds of projects of archeological research institutes, and infrastructure construction of municipality museums; We should actively push forward to realize the standardization of environment in all kinds of museums at the municipality level, such as the standardization of storehouses, quality of air, illumination, exhibition halls, and humidity; we should create the favorable environment for basic preservation of relics; we need also strengthen scientific research and application, introduce the advanced technology and measures, stress on preservation through renovation of ancient frescos, grottos, cliff paintings, carvings, statues, Thangka paintings, and ancient books and records in monasteries; Moreover, we needs to extend the cooperation with the national and international organs, actively conduct scientific research on preservation, renovation of the ancient buildings, archeological exploitation, human resource development, and exhibition.

III. Strategies and Measures Taking for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Cultural Relics and Working on Tibetan Museum

Entering the new millennium and at the new phase, the intra – exchange and inter - exchange on cultural relics is constantly increasing. We are endowed with the mission to inherit, preserve, carry forward the fine traditional culture, strengthen the capacity on cultural relics' preservation and development, and make the sustainable development. All of those contribute efforts to create the cultural environment for preservation and development of TAR cultural heritage, and become the spiritual drive of us to promote a peaceful, harmonious and better - off TAR. Therefore, we must come down onto the earth of TAR, nail down the objectives and tasks of us, strengthen measures, and stress on the works based on the eleventh five years plan, and the plan of the middle and long term. To make prosperity on the course of TAR's cultural preservation and development, firstly, we need clearly to understand the guideline and principles of TAR's cultural preservation and development written in the eleventh five years plan; secondly, we need to actively explore the new mechanism in which the major input comes from the government and all social sectors and forces are mobilized to participate into; thirdly, we should push forward the implementation of rescuing the key cultural projects; fourthly, it is necessary to strengthen the capacity of government departments at different levels to preserve and develop the cultural relics, and put effectiveness onto implementation of those fine and historic cultural heritages; fifthly, we should concern and highly attach the importance of human resource’s development through training the professional staff on this regard; lastly, we should encourage supports from outside of TAR and try hardly promote the possibility of leaping forward development and preservation of TAR’s cultural relics.

Sonam Wangdan, Vice Curator of Tibetan Museum

Oct. 11, 2006

[editor : ]
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