China's 1,459-yr-old Buddha gets $10.8M facelift

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China's oldest Buddhist statue, which is on the brink of collapse, is about to get a 74 million yuan ($10.8 million) facelift, a ministry official said Monday.

 
BEIJING: China's oldest Buddhist statue, which is on the brink of collapse, is about to get a 74 million yuan ($10.8 million) facelift, a ministry official said Monday.
 
The 1,459-year-old Meng Mountain Buddha, which is the country's oldest cliff-carved Buddha located in northern Taiyuan city, will be repaired and restored after seven coal mines operating nearby inflicted environmental damage. The mines were closed in 2007 to protect the stone statue.
 
The report said local authorities hope to develop tourism in the area centered on the Buddha now that the mines have closed.
 
The money from the Ministry of Land Resources will go toward stabilizing the statue and surrounding cliff to stop it from collapsing.
 
"The government funding will be used to consolidate mountain slopes, treat cracks on the Buddha statue and cliff and restore greenery on the mountain," said Qiao Qinghai, a geological official in Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province.
 
The Mengshan Buddha was discovered by a local farmer in 2005, when there were still seven mining firms taking coal from the mountain.
 
The firms were closed by the Taiyuan city government in 2007 to protect the statue. A geological survey in 2009 found the geological environment in an area of 7.74 square km around the statue was damaged by mining activities, said Yang Runde, a spokesman for Jinyuan District of Taiyuan.
 
"Local farmers have big hopes for tourist development, as the coal is depleted. However, the mined-out area is prone to disasters like subsidence and cracking as well as mud flows," he said.
 
Many farmers in Sidi Village, which used to run one of the seven coal mining firms, have opened catering and boarding businesses at the foot of the mountain, and expected to embrace a tourist boom with the government-supported geological restoration work, said Yang.
 
Coal mining in Shanxi, which accounts for almost a quarter of the country's coal output, has caused huge environmental damage. The province has 10,000 square km of mined-out coal bases, where 2 million people face the danger of geological disasters.

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