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Thousands of ancient Buddha statues unearthed

2012-03-21 10:20 Xinhua     Web Editor: Xu Aqing comment

Chinese archaeologists in the northern province of Hebei in January unearthed nearly 3,000 Buddha statues that could date back about 1,500 years.

The discovery is believed to be the largest of its kind in the country since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, an archaeologist with the Institute of Archaeology under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) said at a press conference on Monday.

A team formed by archaeologists from the CASS and the Hebei Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage in January found 2,895 Buddha statues and statue fragments in a 3-meter-wide, 1.5-meter-deep pit at the historic site of Yecheng, an 2,500-year-old ancient city located in what is now Linzhang county, said Dr. He Liqun, a member of the team.

Buddhism was very popular during the Eastern Wei and Northern Qi dynasties, when Yecheng served as the capital. It was especially prevalent in the Northern Qi period, as the imperial family revered Buddhas and more than one-seventh of the population were Buddhist monks and nuns.

The cultural relics bureau of Linzhang county said in an emailed statement to Xinhua last week that the county has signed a letter of intent with a local company to co-invest 10 billion yuan (1.59 billion U.S. dollars) to create a Buddhist cultural park in Linzhang.

The cultural park, which is expected to cover 1,600 mu(107 hectares), aims to step up research efforts, protect Buddhist relics as well as develop the local tourism market, said the statement.

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