Historic relics in a shambles at Hebei tourist site

By Li Tianyang Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/2 17:13:39

Illustrations: Peter C. Espina/GT

As a child, I was enormously impressed by Chinese movie Tunnel Warfare, in which rural residents in Hebei Province built underground facilities to fight Japanese aggressors in the 1940s. The memory lingers even now. Therefore, during the Spring Festival holidays I drove together with my family to Ranzhuang, a village in Hebei's Baoding city where relics of the tunnels in the film are preserved, expecting an informative trip. But I was shocked by what I saw.

The relics spread over about 300,000 square meters were enlisted as a major historical site protected at the national level as early as 1961. But the place is clearly not as well protected as it should be. Stalls were put up all over to sell souvenirs, toys and snacks and even the services of fortune-tellers. Trash littered the place. Former offices of local organizations against Japanese aggression and former residence of Zhang Senlin, a hero buried alive during the war for refusing to surrender, were converted by villagers into photo studios, which I have never come across in other tourist sites.

These studios had presented all kinds of costumes including military uniforms of Kuomintang and outfits of Chinese who worked for the Imperial Japanese Army in the 1930s and 1940s, often called hanjian, or traitors. Many visitors paid to get themselves and their children photographed in the costumes. They sometimes postured inappropriately. The tunnel warfare site is meant to educate young people about history and make them more patriotic. How can such studios spring up there to promote crass commercialization?

Tourists are charged extra in all names. Villagers lie to lure you to park in private parking lots with higher fees before you drive closer to the site. As tourists lined up outside the only public toilet, locals opened their home bathrooms to tourists or built latrines outdoors to make money. Some villagers claiming to be tour guides directed visitors to an exhibition hall built only to collect fees.

I found it to be a shocking trip and so did many others who complained online.

In fact, the Ranzhuang site was downgraded in 2017 by the provincial tourism watchdog as a warning, but apparently this failed to warn local officials. Tourists from far-flung areas come to witness the wisdom and courage that the older generation has displayed during the arduous years against Japanese aggression, only to be disappointed.

The tunnels are actually invaluable treasures to be cherished. And if well protected and maintained, they can play their role in many ways. This indeed deserves the attention of local authorities.

The author is an op-ed editor of the Chinese edition of the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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