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Museum mason

Updated: 2013-05-20 00:45
By Erik Nilsson and Huang Zhiling ( China Daily)

Museum mason

Fan Jianchuan, museum founder. Huang Yiming / China Daily

"These relics are a wakeup call to the Chinese," Fan says.

"They inform decision-makers. That's my museum's most important lesson."

Less than a month before the magnitude-7 Ya'an quake on April 20, 2013, he gave the example that his museum holds relics from many quakes that have jostled the Longmen fault line.

"If I live another 30 years, I'll see another major quake along Longmen," he told China Daily.

He saw one about three weeks later.

His motivation to collect and display relics comes from his belief they reference the past to advise the future.

Fan recalls rushing to the store when the Sanlu milk powder scandal broke in 2008.

The staff refused to sell him the melamine-tainted baby formula, he recalls, but he finally persuaded them.

"I'm probably the only person with two boxes of Sanlu milk powder," he says.

"They're monuments to a moment in history. Relics must be related to landmark events and be unique. That's what makes them relics."

He's now trying to obtain Wenzhou train crash wreckage and discontinued platforms that traffic police stood on in Chongqing municipality.

"My collection changes with time," he says.

But not every relic must be of national significance, he believes.

"Every family has a museum," he says.

"They have things like letters and photo albums. Families make good and bad decisions, and leave mementos of these choices - just like countries."

In this philosophy's spirit, Fan's office and library will be preserved after his death. And the 40 notebooks worth of diaries he has kept since age 12, plus more than 10,000 of his letters and photos, will be displayed.

Fan believes his story is a microcosm of the opening-up and reform.

"When I was a farmer, I earned 1 jiao (1.5 US cents) a day. I couldn't make use of my ambition. I fainted twice from hunger."

His museum earned 20 million ($3.25 million) yuan from ticket sales last year.

But Fan says money is only part of his, China's and the world's legacy.

"A country can't be considered advanced only because of its economy," Fan says.

"Its power also comes from culture. I must work hard for the cultural prosperity of China and the world."

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