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Sichuan's earthquake museum is a tribute to the human spirit

Asia
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The clock.Tibetan home.Tibetan hosts. Pictures: Melanie Peters.
COLLAPSED buildings and rubble frame a sculpture of a huge, jagged clock face inscribed with a date and time when a natural disaster struck Sichuan province, China on May 12, 2008.
The structures form part of the Wenchuan Earthquake Memorial Museum, located in the ancient town of Anren in Dayi County.
The edifice speaks to the triumph of the human spirit; the courage to get back up when all seems lost.
Nine years ago a devastating earthquake hit Wenchuan. More than 70 000 people were killed and nearly five million were left homeless.
Today breathtaking mountains and forests form the backdrop to the museum built in memory of  the disaster.
The space, sombre yet tranquil, receives many visitors and tourists.
It is the epicentre of one of China’s worst earthquakes in 30 years. With a magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale, the earthquake destroyed everything in its path.
A few years ago the Chinese government commissioned architects from Tongji University, in Shanghai, to build a museum as a reminder that man has little power when up against the force of nature.
The team was led by architect Cai Yongjie and experts in the field seismology were able to offer incredible sight. Yongjie designed large subterranean buildings with green roof tops. From above it offers an
image of a land cracked and destroyed by the underground tectonic plates.
In the museum stark photographs, relics and wax sculptures tell a story of the disaster and the rescue mission.  An earthquake simulator forms part of the narrative to help visitors experience the vibrations
of a real seismic event.
The museum is open everyday.

Taoping Qiang Village

About 16km from Wenchaun is Taoping Qiang Village, in Guangrou County, Sichaun. It is home to the Qiang people, one of China’s 54 ethnic groups. The village which dates back 2000 years is well known for its ancient stone architecture. This includes a “mysterious oriental castle” which has piqued the curiosity of archaeologist. Tours are offered a tour through a labyrinth of the alleyways to discover more of the Qiang-style architecture. 
It is a complex network of stone towers and dwellings constructed of earth, stones, hemp and wood. Each
house has a white stone, a religious symbol, to ward off evil. The ancient watchtowers, ranging up to 30m high, take on shapes of hexagons or octagons. These solidly built towers and homes withstood
the earthquake.
The Qiang people have also managed to preserve their culture and customs through the ages. In the village, women sell baskets of sweet cherries picked from nearby orchards and old men sitting at their
gates enjoying barley wine. There are stalls with elegantly embroidered clothes, scarves and other trinkets particular to the region. Qiang-style embroidery is a Chinese cultural treasure and the forte of the Qiang women. The skill has been handed down for more than 1000 years.

Qiudi Village, Lixian County

More than 2000m above sea level in Sichaun’s mountainous rural Lixian County, about 35km from Wenchaun, is a small community of Jiarong Tibetans. They live in Qiudi village. Their lives, once marred by
poverty, have been turned around through government programmes.  Their economy received a welcome boost  through  yak farming, running a hydro power plant and tourism. Families have opened their homes to
tourists who wish to experience their culture. It is a cultural bed and breakfast of sorts which locals called “agritainment”. 
Hosts dressed in ethnic gowns welcome guests into their Tibetan-styled homes which are ornately decorated with splashes of bold colour. The mountain air is mint fresh and the locals hospitality warm. It’s a
welcome retreat from city life.

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