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Quarrying threatens Shaolin Temple area
8/6/2006 10:38

Overzealous quarrying in the Songshan Mountains has endangered the environment in the area that is home to the Shaolin Temple, the spiritual home of kung fu.

Quarrying has polluted the mountains with garbage, dusty air and leftover stones.

The beautiful landscape of the mountains has been destroyed, leaving little but exposed mountain surfaces and destroyed forests. Visitors and environment experts are calling for the protection of the Songshan Mountains by banning quarrying.

On a northern sidehill of the area, a number of villages are using strong dynamite and huge quarrying machinery. The crushed rock was later sold for 30 yuan (US$3.75) per cubic meter.

One villager "proudly" told Xinhua that "No matter how much stone a businessman wants to purchase, we can surely satisfy his needs."

There are more than 20 quarries across the Songshan Mountains, said Meng Jiang, a former senior government official of Dengfeng City.

The Songshan Mountains are on the boundaries of three cities in Henan Province - Dengfeng, Yanshi and Gongyi.

According to Meng, Dengfeng has set up the Songshan Mountains National Forest Park to protect its natural resources. Nonetheless, it can do nothing to stop quarrying on the northern sidehill because that area belongs to the other two cities.

Cultural heart

Professor Zhou Kunshu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences urged local governments to further protect the Songshan Mountains. He said it is not only a natural attraction, but also the heart of Chinese Buddhism and kung fu.

Since both Paleolithic and Neolithic cultural relics have been found in the area, the mountains can also be seen as the cradle of ancient Chinese culture, Zhou said.

However, bare rock makes the area ugly, said Zhang Xinbin, a researcher of the Henan Academy of Social Sciences. "It's our responsibility to protect the Songshan Mountains. Its cultural status can't be replaced by any other mountains in China."

Economist Zheng Taisen has been studying culture in the Songshan Mountains for years. He said the cultural environment is deteriorating.

"The mountain view could be seen by most people in cities around it in the past, but now several skyscrapers break the ridge line and damage the natural beauty," Zheng said.

Named a World Geological Park by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the State Council has included kung fu from Shaolin Temple in its first intangible cultural heritage list.

The area also boasts the Songyang Academy, one of the four most important schools in ancient China; Zhongyue Temple, built in the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC); and Yongtai Temple, China's oldest royal Buddhist nunnery.