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Pain, dreams linger in burnt down ancient town

English.news.cn   2014-01-13 20:14:24            

Photo taken on Jan. 12, 2014 shows the fire site at the Dukezong Ancient Town of Shangri-la, a resort county in southwest China's Yunnan Province. More than 240 houses were damaged by the fire that started in the early hours of Saturday. The fire has been extinguished and no casualties have been reported as of Jan.12. The cause of the fire is under investigation. Dukezong, meaning "town of the moon", was built 1,300 years ago and is one of the most renowned resorts in Shangri-la, known for its well-preserved ancient Tibetan dwellings. (Xinhua/Ji Zhepeng)

by Xinhua writers Hu Tao, Ji Zhepeng, Wang Jinyuan

SHANGRI-LA, Yunnan, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- The smell of ash lingered over a snowy ancient town in Shangri-la, a famous tourist site in southwest China, on Monday.

As many as 300 homes were destroyed in the 1,300-year-old Tibetan town of Dukezong in Yunnan Province on Saturday after its worst fire in its history. More than 2,600 residents have been relocated.

"I grew up here. I am heartbroken at the sight of such a beautiful ancient town being turned to ash," said Li Gang, director with the Cultural Relic Management Institute with the Deqen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

"This is a warning to us about protecting and conserving the town and its traditional culture," he said.

Once a hub along the ancient Tea-Horse Road, Dukezong was built according to "Shambhala (heavenly realm)" in Sutra and named in Tibetan as the "Town of Moonlight".

It became famous thanks to British writer James Hilton's 1933 novel The Lost Horizon, which describes a journey in the mythical land.

In 2001, the region was renamed Shangri-la County and is on the southern edge of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and borders Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet.

At 1:37 a.m. on Saturday, a fire at Ruyi Inn, a wooden construction, broke out. The inn was in the middle-lower section of the mountain town.

"At around 2 a.m., my sister called me about the fire. I quickly woke up the six tourists in the inn," said waitress Arongmi.

They all escaped before the inn was turned to rubble.

"The fire spread and the whole town was engulfed. The sky was lit red and wooden homes crackled in the flames," said Song Yunfeng, a 20-year-old native Tibetan girl.

Song wandered around the local square, the heart of the town, which holds trade fairs and major festivals.

Inns, cafes, souvenir shops and dwellings in the "Town of Moonlight" were rubble.

"Most of the jewelry and antique souvenirs melted," said Li Peiji, the owner of a store selling silver.

Searching for the remaining goods in the snow-covered ruins, Li said that his losses were estimated to be over one million yuan (about 165,400 U.S. dollars).

Dukezong was designed in a way to prevent it from being destroyed by fire. When it was initially built there was space and water between buildings to prevent fire from spreading.

"However, a lot of spare space was used for restaurants, shops and inns as tourism boomed," Li said.

Hubei tourist Tan Fengfan was left devastated after arriving in the town late on Monday.

"We learnt about the fire in the news. But we decided to come to Shangri-la and see," said Tan.

"I am expecting the town to be reconstructed," he said.

Dukezong is an important part of Shangri-la, home to the Meri snow mountain, a grand canyon and beautiful landscape, said Wang Guohua, a county official of Shangri-la.

"I hope people will still come to Shangri-la," said Wang.

Related:

Video>>Shangri-la fire under investigation

Photo>>Fire burns down ancient town in China's Shangri-la county

Fire controls stepped up after Shangri-la blaze

BEIJING, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese government is tightening fire controls at cultural heritage sites after a blaze at an ancient town in southwest China on Saturday.

The State Administration of Cultural Heritage on Monday issued a notice to provincial cultural heritage departments, telling them to step up fire controls in ancient cities, towns and villages. Full story

Fire in China's Shangri-la put out

SHANGRI-LA, Yunnan, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- A fire that started in the early hours of Saturday in an ancient town in Shangri-la, a resort county in southwest China's Yunnan Province, has been completely put out.

The fire broke out at 1:37 a.m. at the Ruyi Inn in the Dukezong Ancient Town, where most houses are made of wood, a factor which added difficulties to firefighting, said a local government spokesman at a press conference. Full story

Fire in China's Shangri-la damages 240 houses

KUNMING, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- More than 240 houses were damaged by a fire that started in the early hours of Saturday in an ancient town in Shangri-la, a resort county in southwest China's Yunnan Province, forcing 2,600 residents to evacuate.

The fire lasted nine hours till 10:30 a.m. at the Ruyi Inn in the Dukezong Ancient Town, where most houses are made of wood, a factor which added difficulties to firefighting, said a local government spokesman. Full story

Ancient town catches fire in China's Shangri-la

KUNMING, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- An ancient town in Shangri-la, a resort county in southwest China's Yunnan Province, caught fire early Saturday, local authorities said.

The fire broke out at 1:27 a.m. at the Dukezong Ancient Town, where most house are made of wood, adding difficulties to the fire fighting, said a local government spokesman. Full story

Editor: An
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