Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has stepped up efforts to protect its local heritage sites.
The progress has been most noteworthy in the region of Turpan, home to key sites such as the Jiaohe Ruins, the Ancient City of Gaochang, and the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves.
On the northern rim of the Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, the Ancient City of Gaochang was a stopping point for merchant traders traveling on the Silk Road.
Protection of the oasis city is well into its third phase. With an investment of 13 million yuan, the project is expected to be completed in August 2011. The renovation will be carried out on the city walls and residential houses.
Huang Xing, director of Ancient City of Gaochang MGMT Bureau, said, "Scientific measurements are taken to strengthen the walls, mend the cracks, and make the surface wind and rain proof. These measures slow down the deterioration significantly."
Located at the foot of the Flaming Mountain, about 46 kilometers southeast of Turpan, the ancient city of Gaochang was listed as a national protected site in 1961. It's part of the Silk Road, which was listed as the World Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2007.
Scattered over an area of two-million square meters, the Gaochang city contains three parts: outer city, inner city, and the palace city. Built with tamped earth, the site has been damaged by the weather and excessive tourism.
Close to the ruins of Gaochang Ancient City are the Buddha clusters, the largest being the Bezeklik grottos.
This complex of Buddhist cave grottoes dates from the 5th to the 9th centuries. There are 77 rock-cut caves at the site. Most have rectangular spaces with rounded arch ceilings often divided into four sections, each with a mural of Buddha. Protection work has been going on at this site for over a year. Over 11-million yuan has been invested into renovating the outer walls of the caves, which haven't opened to the public.
Protection of the heritage sites along the Silk Road is the country's largest and most extensive project so far. In the five years from 2005, altogether 420 million yuan have been invested for the 21 sites here.