Chinese mourn Notre Dame

2019-04-17 08:42:09Global Times Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Strict rules in China to prevent similar accidents 

Many Chinese expressed their deep grief online over the 850-year-old Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, which was engulfed by an inferno on Monday, as the incident has received more than 1.3 billion views and 570,000 discussions on Chinese Twitter-like social media Sina Weibo.

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent his condolences to French President Emmanuel Macronfollowing the blaze, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday.

Xi pointed out that Notre Dame is an important symbol of French civilization and an outstanding treasure of human civilization. The Chinese people are as deeply saddened by the fire as the French people. It is believed that with the efforts of the French people and support of the international community, Notre Dame will be successfully repaired and renew its glory.

People around the world mourned the Notre Dame cathedral, one of the world's greatest treasures and a symbol of France.

"This is our lady, this belongs to Victor Hugo, and this admirable architecture embodies Paris, which is also Paris itself," French filmmaker Jean-Marc Surcin told the Global Times Monday night (local time). "It a dramatic, immeasurable disaster," he said.

Former French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said it was a sad morning, as he is currently visiting Shanghai. "Need to cry and pray," he said in a post shared on his WeChat moments.

Many Chinese mourned the tragedy, and the hashtag #NotreDamefire topped the hot topic list on China's Twitter-like Weibo on Tuesday, with over 1.3 billion views.

Some netizens who had the cathedral deeply imprinted in their hearts through Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame said that "now Quasimodo has no place to live, after losing his beloved."

Many people who have been to the cathedral before posted their photos with the Notre Dame while expressing their grief. Those who haven't been there also expressed their sadness and regrets since they miss the chance to visit the original cathedral.

Some Chinese people associated the fire to the Old Summer Palace incident.

The Old Summer Palace in Beijing, a royal garden of the Qing Dynasty, was known for its extensive collection of architecture and numerous art and historical treasures. But it was burned and ransacked by British and French troops while the Anglo-French expedition force invaded China during the Second Opium War in 1860.

Observers noted that the tragedy of the Old Summer Palace is a scar in the national memory of Chinese people, and it is natural and understandable that some people will be reminded of the fire in Beijing 159 years ago when seeing the tragedy in Paris.

However, a small group of Chinese netizens gloated over the Notre Dame tragedy and they believe France is paying for what it did to the Old Summer Palace, but experts said these radical voices are not the mainstream.

These netizens are extreme and narrow-minded, said Liu Zheng, a member of the China Cultural Relics Academy, noting that the fire of Notre Dame is the loss of culture of mankind as a whole.

"Chinese mainstream media and most people are still paying their tribute to the loss of this world-class cultural heritage. Hopefully this tragedy will also ring a bell for Chinese society to better cherish our own treasures and heritage," Liu told the Global Times.

The Old Summer Palace of China, which is now known as Ruins of Yuanmingyuan Park, said on its Weibo account, "May all cultural relics be safe from disaster and be inherited by generation after generation."

Too many issues

Some netizens also claimed the tragedy exposed France's "problematic governance." A netizen named "Huochaimatch" said that the tragedy exposed the loose governance and excessive liberty and leisure of the French people.

Zhao Junjie, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of European Studies, told the Global Times that the tragedy exposed the bureaucracy and poor efficiency of the French government.

"If the French firefighting department had come up with precautions and responded immediately to possible fire hazards, the damage would not be as severe," Zhao said.

France should severely punish those responsible for the fire as it damaged a symbolic world heritage, and the French government is obliged to preserve it, Chinese analysts said.

Part of the reason for a slow government is that the French have too many issues to deal with, including the "yellow vest" crisis, some web users said on social media networks.

More broadly, Europe is experiencing huge social reform and transition with social conflicts and polarization triggered by Brexitand migration policies, Zhao said.

The tragedy of Notre Dame sounds an alarm on the perseveration of ancient Chinese architecture. Large-scale museums in China rarely experience such incidents in recent years due to their strict regulations, fire-prevention awareness and management, Liu said.

Large-scale museums in China rarely experience such incidents in recent years due to their strict regulations, fire-prevention awareness and management, Liu said.

One silver lining is that the cathedral has a digital archive of the building, which will greatly help in restoration work, Liu said.

Chai Xiaoming, president of the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage, told the Global Times that preserving Chinese heritage sites is more technically difficult than European cultural sites.

Most of the Chinese heritage buildings were made of wood that cannot withstand erosion caused by water and climate conditions, but most of the European heritage sites were built with stone, Chai said.

This is not the first time that a world heritage site caught fire. On September 2, 2018, Brazil's National Museum, Latin America's largest natural history and anthropology museum which holds more than 20 million artifacts, was ravaged by a massive fire.

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