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Fulong Temple: Special Benchmark for Postquake Renovation of WCH

  Opening Remarks

  Situated on Lidui and confronting Minjiang River on three sides, Fulong Temple (or “Dragon-taming Temple”) appears extraordinarily majestic and stately. Connected with the vast dam by 42 stone steps, the temple overlooks the torrent of the river dashing through Baopingkou. The view is indeed magnificent.

  It is said that during the Warring States Period, Li Bing and his son subjugated the “evil dragon” in the Minjiang River when seeking to tame the flood and had it confined at Fulong Pool under Lidui. Later a hall was built to commemorate them, and in the early Northern Song Dynasty the hall was renamed Fulong Temple, whose three layers of palaces display Sichuan people’s daring spirit in controlling the river.

  Dujiangyan irrigation system is a long-lasting example of people conquering the Nature, while Fulong Temple is renowned for defending the Minjiang River. However, on May 12, 2008, shock waves of the massive earthquake which ran along the Longmenshan Fault left the ancient temple with fallen tiles, displaced pillars and slanting stature. The rescue and conservation project of the world cultural heritage(WCH)-Dujiangyan ancient building complex was launched shortly.    

  Schedule for the rescue and renovation

  The conservation project of Fulong Temple was destined to attract wide attention, for it was the first project started after the quake for rescue and conservation of cultural heritage and the first project completed after the quake for rescue and conservation of world cultural heritage.

  On the second day after the massive earthquake, leaders from the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) rushed to Dujiangyan city and the Fulong Temple rescue project was put on the table. Afterwards, over 20 domestic institutions for renovation of cultural heritage arrived at the site successively.

  The project started on June 30. It cost nearly 200 million yuan and was classified by SACH as the “No.1 Project”. The School of Architecture of Tsinghua University was responsible for surveying and design in general. Guangxi Cultural Relic Conservation, Research and Design Center, a firm for ancient building renovation with Class-A qualification, was responsible for construction. And Hebei Mushi Ancient Building Design Co., Ltd. took charge of supervision.

  On December 28, 2009, the project for rescue and conservation of Fulong Temple was finally completed and the temple was re-open to the public.

  (Fulong Temple: the renovation)

  Fan Tuoyu, Deputy Director of the Cultural Relic Bureau of Dujiangyan Municipality, told us in excitement: “We standardized the engineering work and avoided further damage during the renovation. We also respected historical and local characteristics. So every detail in the renovation of the temple can surely be taken as a benchmark.”

  How to place the tiles took extreme deliberation

  How to restore the temple? How to carry on the future conservation? Such debates kept haunting the renovation of Fulong Temple right from the beginning. In the renovation of cultural relics, the principle is to repair the old as it used to be. Let’s see the encouraging details of the renovation project, which was just verification for its being the “benchmark”. 

  On the last day of 2009, Zhu Xiaonan, Director of the Office for Cultural Relic Conservation of the Department of Cultural Relic Conservation of Sichuan Province, was still somewhat stirred when he opened the documentary records on his computer. A photo of the temple’s front side showed that, the rafters on top of the temple were exposed for a large number of tiles had fallen down in the quake and that was the main damage to the temple’s top. So the “sticking-up rafters” turned out to be the priority of the renovation. However, at the top of the temple, something unexpected bewildered the engineers. How come there was a layer of plastic sheet between rafters? Engineers found the reasons in records of earlier maintenance. The plastic sheets laid in an earlier maintenance project were meant to protect the temple. In theory, rows of gutter tiles and cover tiles are placed alternately on the rafters, which is usually sufficient to keep away rain. But these Chinese-style tiles are light, fragile and therefore prone to damage. Relevant specialists further explicated a few circumstances to us. For example, strong winds would lift up and blow away the tiles. Small running animals such as cats on the roofs would also stir up some tiles. In other cases, the tiles would be pushed up by grasses growing from birds’ food and feces on the roofs. These circumstances had betrayed the roof’s defects in respect of rain-proof function. That was just why proceeding repairers had laid plastic sheets between the tiles and rafters.

  To adopt modern methods for a one-off solution or to thoroughly restore the temple as it was originally? The outcome of the debate was that so-called “modern methods” were abandoned by the engineers of Guangxi Cultural Relic Conservation, Research and Design Center. Plastic sheets were not used, and instead, the tiles were lying naturally on the roofs of Fulong Temple.

  Brick pillars were finally replaced by wooden pillars.

  Speaking of cultural relic renovation, the most quoted word is “to repair the old as it used to be”. But how old can be taken as “old” and how can the cultural heritage remain “old”? Liu Dongliang, supervisor with Hebei Mushi Ancient Building Design Co., Ltd. had his opinion: “Renovation of ancient building differs from that of ordinary buildings. A fallen brick from ordinary buildings may be discarded as waste materials, but a brick falling from an ancient building may well be a piece of cultural relic. Our task is not only to repair the damaged, but also to conserve the existing.”

  “The maintenance of ancient buildings is a meticulous job” was the comment of Zhang Xianwen, Director and General Engineer of Guangxi Cultural Relic Conservation, Research and Design Center. He told us about a convention in repairing ancient buildings, which specifies that the roof truss can not be taken apart or put on the floor, and that pillars must be repaired or replaced one by one. On the site of renovation, workers put up steel frameworks to support the weight of the roof truss. Workmen would remove the broken, cracked, deformed, worm-bored or rotten part of the damaged “original” columns and make up a piece of new wooden stuff. The process would take more time and effort than to change for a new column.

  Nevertheless, the above convention met challenge in this renovation project. The survey done by the Research Institute for Cultural Heritage Conservation of Tsinghua University revealed that the brick pillars in the temple halls were the major culprit for the collapse of the temple buildings whereas the wooden structures were still firm. So the solution to restore the buildings to be all wood-structured seemed to be recognized without objection. But how come brick pillars were set up in the temple? As shown in the maintenance records of the temple, the rear hall experienced a major maintenance in the 1950s, when solid brick pillars were used, possibly out of deadline stress or shortage of wooden material. Clear records, however, showed that all pillars in the rear hall had been wooden pillars before that case of maintenance.

  Now the question came up in this post-quake renovation: to use wooden pillars or brick pillars? Because bricks are of low tensile strength, brick pillars may not have desirable seismic resistance. Plants are of sound natural tensile strength, so wooden pillars can better resist earthquakes. Consequently, the ultimate resolution favored wooden pillars without doubt.

  Then where would such a large quantity of wooden material come from? Compassion for the quake-hit people had no boundary. The Guangxi contractor decided to seek for suitable timber in Guangxi’s forests. The forest administrations of Guangxi specially granted a timber quota, “choose whichever tree you prefer”, and allowed simple formalities, just to “support Sichuan’s post-quake reconstruction”.

  New hi-tech safeguarded the “tamed dragon”.

  Quake resistance and disaster prevention were the key words for the renovation of Fulong Temple. According to Zhang Xianwen, lightning-proof devices, fire-proof devices, security devices and quake-resisting devices--none of them were missed.

  Laid along the ridges and eaves of the three palaces are now copper rods as thick as little fingers. These copper rods are supported by metallic frameworks and extend deep under the ground from the ridges and eaves. This constitutes the newly-installed lightning-proof network for the temple. The vicinity of Baopingkou where Fulong Temple is located is a region prone to be attacked by lightning. Though the temple had not suffered from severe lightning attack prior to this renovation, complete lightning-proof measures were deemed necessary and installed. During the construction, the foundations of the buildings were reinforced so as to enhance the seismic resistance capability of the buildings. Fire-proof system and security system that were decorated in ancient styles and concealed lightning-proof system with hi-tech elements were also installed.

  To restore to the old appearance in history, indigenous methods and modern hi-tech conservation techniques were successfully combined in this case of Fulong Temple renovation. 

  Why Chose Local Painters?

  During the New Year Holidays of 2010, tourists to Fulong Temple found that over ten painters were still doing the final “makeup” for the Temple.

  “For several buildings in the main palace and the second palace as well as most constructions in the third palace, raw lacquer hasn’t been painted for the third time, which is delayed because of the cold weather,” told Fan Tuoyu. “The third painting is the last protection coat for wooden constructions, such as wooden pillars, wooden windows and wooden doors. It can effectively prevent them from dust corrosion, but it cannot be done when temperature is low, for the raw lacquer that is not dry enough can result in serious problem in quality and can become sticky and fall off.”

  In the restoration of Fulong Temple, the locally produced paint was used for most buildings, while the ready mixed paint was only used on the buildings that needed thick colors. Few people know about another secret of the restoration project behind the technology of raw lacquer.

  Throughout the whole restoration project of Fulong Temple, the Guangxi construction party insisted on choosing Sichuan local workers. All of the 16 painters came from Dujiangyan and Qingchuan. When asked why they chose Sichuan painters, they smiled and answered, “Painters need mutual cooperation. As all of them are Sichuan people, there would be no obstacle in communication.” Actually, there also involves a chemistry principle, “Raw lacquer is closely related to the local weather. Only the local people that are familiar with the climate can be good at mixing the lacquer, and they have to cooperate with each other during construction.”

  (Fulong Temple ? Notice for Cultural Relics Protection )

  The Most Valuable: A Collection of Images and Videos of Ancient Architectures

  Zhang Xianwen has spent 28 years in protecting cultural relics. He directed and participated in the survey and design, protection planning, maintenance and construction of many Cultural Relics of National Importance under the Protection of the State, including the Site of the Headquarter of the Eighth Red Army in Longzhou of Guangxi, the Site of Zunyi Meeting in Guizhou, and the Three Lanes and Seven Alleys in Fuzhou of Fujian, etc.

  Each restoration of cultural relics can be a brand new experience. According to Zhang Xianwen, one important reason for the smooth completion of the restoration project of Fulong Temple lies in that the Dujiangyan Bureau of Cultural Relics has kept a set of photographs of the “genuine” cultural relics of Fulong Temple, which makes it possible to construct the buildings by strictly following the original appearance recorded in historical materials. Early in the year of 1953, the Cultural Relics Administration of Guanxian County was founded as one of the earliest founded departments for cultural relics protection, thus the photographs of Fulong Temple are managed to be updated and preserved.

  Historical materials have played a crucial part in restoring Fulong Temple. Each plastic covering and brick pillar has their place in the restoration history of Fulong Temple. Meanwhile, accurately answering the historical remains and past history of ancient architectures can increase our knowledge and experience about cultural relics protection. Fan Tuoyu holds that “the Fulong Temple project tells us that old photographs can not only be used for appreciation or pondering on the past.” For restoring cultural relics, information and records are very important, so for existing valuable ancient architectures, surveys and drawings should be carried out, and all of the drawings, photos, videos and materials have to be kept well so that we can restore them based on these materials whenever necessary.

  The Most Powerful: 3D Laser Scanning and Photogrammetry

  Damages to cultural relics by the sudden force of the earthquake are quite different from the damages accumulated through years. Zhu Yuhua, engineer in the Cultural Heritage Protection Research Institute of Qinghua University, says that it would be easier for technicians to determine the accumulated damages, but for damages done by the earthquake, they can only be discovered in the later cleaning and uncovering work. Technicians have to communicate with the design party in time and adjust the plans as necessary. Hasty decisions cannot be made in case regret be left.

  During the restoration prject of Fulong Temple, 3D laser scanning and photogrammetry have helped Zhu Yuhua, et al to complete relative work. “Because of the ceaseless aftershocks of the earthquake and rainfalls at that time, main damaged relics had to be cleaned in time. It’s necessary to accurately record the damages caused by the earthquake and the deformation situation of buildings after the earthquake as soon as possible. Through post processing, the materials acquired by 3D laser scanning were used to establish 3D simulation models of the buildings through which we could directly perceive the buildings’ structure after being damaged by the earthquake. ” In this way, the post-earthquake situation of Fulong Temple was completely recorded, and the damages the earthquake can do to traditional architectures with wooden structures were known to us. All of these are crucial to the smooth implementation of the restoration project.

  The Most Typical: “Unusual Actions” Attract World’s Attention

  It is said that after the Wenchuan Earthquake, experts from many countries have come to Sichuan for investigation. When they saw that cultural heritage protection and rescue work was carried out in time in Sichuan, all of them showed their appreciation. In the International Festival of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Chengdu last year, the cultural heritage rescue and protection work had been highly praised by experts from countries all around the world.

   “In the past one and half years, every month there would be experts from various places to investigate on the spot and give their suggestions. The restoration project of Fulong Temple is actually an on-site meeting for national cultural heritage protection,” said Zhu Xiaonan. “Lots of cultural relics have been damaged in natural and geological disasters in recent years all round the world. The restoration of certain cultural relics in some places has been mired in difficulties because of delayed rescue, from which irretrievable losses resulted. ” Our restoration of the ancient architectures of Fulong Temple after the earthquake can serve as a typical and positive example.

  On December 28 of 2009, Shan Jixiang, director of State Bureau of Cultural Relics, said on the Completion Ceremony of Post-disaster Rescue and Protection Project of Fulong Temple, that the formal start of the “Rescue and Protection Project of World Cultural Heritage Dujiangyan Ancient Architecture Group” on June 30 of 2008 showed to the whole world the strong determination of Chinese Government in rescuing and protecting cultural heritage before great disasters and catastrophes. The “Unusual Actions”, including “simultaneous survey and design, simultaneous supervision, and simultaneous construction”, not only provide reference for post-disaster cultural heritage rescue and protection in China, but also provide valuable experience for the world’s cultural heritage protection.


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