China Daily, January 3, 2007
Beijing, China -- Mammon is finally making way for meditation at China's most ancient and revered Buddhism ground.
Wutai Mountain in North China's Shanxi Province, where 47 Chinese Buddhist and Lama temples are situated, is also the home to 700 hotels, 1,000 restaurants and numerous souvenir shops.
Most of the commercial establishments sprouted up in the last two decades with tourism becoming the cornerstone of the local economy.
But to prevent the proverbial golden goose from being killed, a 60 million U.S. dollar relocation project was launched by the provincial government in October to restore the serenity of the Buddhist mountain.
Most of the commercial buildings are to be pulled down and about 1,000 residents relocated by April, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
"The mountain will have more quiet," said Danqu Jiayang, director of the Lamaism Luohou Temple. "We can serve the Buddha even better."
Serenity is not the only incentive the clearing-up is necessary for Wutai Mountain to be China's candidate for both the World Cultural Heritage and the World Natural Heritage lists of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization this year.
Han Ruijie, the project's director who is an official at the Wutai Mountain Administrative Bureau, told Xinhua that the mountain's candidacy had been approved by the State Council.
"But cultural heritage experts and historians said that the site has become too commercialized," he said. "We have to tackle this problem if we want to succeed."
Guo Zhan, an official at the World Heritage Office of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH), said the mountain is on a candidates' list along with other 34 heritage sites. The SACH published the list in Beijing last month.
It is a fact that many heritage sites are in a better state of conservation as local governments are keen to get on the World Heritage List, Guo told China Daily. "The motive is good; and so is the outcome."
Three villages and dozens of hotels will be relocated "in a proper way" for the Wutai project, said Liang Yousheng, director of the Wutai Mountain Administrative Bureau.
Wutai Mountain, 240 km from the provincial capital of Taiyuan, is famous for its bright blue sky and excellent natural beauty, with giant trees shading ancient temples and pagodas. The oldest, known as Xiaotong Temple, was first built in the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220).
The site has long enjoyed international significance because a Buddhist academy was established there as early as in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). Since then, students have come from different countries such as India, Japan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.