May 31, 2006

China’s “pyramids” in danger of collapsing: report

BEIJING (Reuters) - Tombs almost 1,000 years old in western
China -- known as the "pyramids of the east" -- are in danger
of collapse due to natural erosion and man-made damage, Chinese
state television said on Wednesday.

The Western Xia Tombs, in the poor, remote region of
Ningxia, house the remains of kings of an empire that once
stretched to the borders of Tibet and developed its own complex
written script based, like Chinese, on pictographs.

But years of wind, rain and neglect of the state-protected
site has left holes up to two meters (yards) deep in the
structures, which resemble miniature versions of Egypt's
pyramids, the report said.

"The tombs are in imminent danger of collapse and urgently
need to be saved," it said, adding that a 10-meter-long wall
had already crumbled.

The tombs, spread out on a plain near an air force base
outside the regional capital, are less preserved and protected
than more famous sites, such as the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Many of their treasures were looted years if not centuries
ago. All that is left now are a few artifacts in a dingy museum
and the dusty remains of the tombs themselves.