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Foreign field will forever be home

By ZHANG ZHIHAO/WANG MINGJIE | China Daily | Updated: 2017-02-06 07:57

Foreign field will forever be home

Members of an inspection team from the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation discuss restoration plans with a memorial stonemason and local councillors in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. ZHANG RONG/CHINA DAILY

"But we are trying to keep as much of the original material as possible to maintain the historical integrity of the memorials that have been here for a very long time," Richmond said, adding that the main challenge is the size of the headstones, which are so large that special lifting equipment will be needed to carry out the work.

The northern hemisphere weather will also present challenges, so the bulk of the work will be carried out during the summer months to avoid adverse conditions, such as rain and snow, he said.

'A great sacrifice'

According to the archives at Newcastle Civic Centre, the first two graves were purchased by the Chinese government in 1881, and the other three in 1887. They cost 5 pounds each at the time, which would equate to about 1,000 pounds ($1,267) per grave in modern terms, according to Alan Macfarlane, historian and professor emeritus at King's College, Cambridge University.

"It does not seem very much, but in fact, at the time, the Chinese were relatively short of foreign currency, so it really was a great sacrifice," he said. "It was really a wonderful thing that was done because so many Chinese sailors were lost all over the world, and very, very few of them have been remembered. It is marvelous that we are now able to remember one or two of them."

The Northern Britain Chinese Entrepreneurs Association, which is based in Newcastle, has become a major player in the restoration project, which is of great significance to the Chinese community in Newcastle and northeast England, according to Xu Lei, the association's executive vice-president.

"In addition to the historical importance of the project itself, I believe that working together with the local government and community helps overseas Chinese in Newcastle to better integrate with the local community. It also provides local people a great opportunity to understand some Chinese history and traditions," he said.

Now, with one global restoration project under his belt, Li believes similar operations will become more common, and said crowdfunding will make it easier for members of the public to participate in the preservation of relics.

"We all have a responsibility to preserve our history," he said.

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