Money woes: Relics buried be­neath blan­kets of cash

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By SHI XIAOFENG in Hangzhou shixf @chi­nadaily.com.cn

Trav­el­ers’ mis­un­der­stand­ings about throw­ing coins and notes onto his­tor­i­cal relics for bless­ings has nearly ru­ined the 1,000- year-old Leifeng Pagoda in Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang province, ac­cord­ing to a lo­cal news­pa­per.

The ad­min­is­tra­tive unit of the Leifeng Pagoda scenic spot has been un­der pres­sure to pro­tect the his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural site. Piles of coins and notes vir­tu­ally buried the relic, Q ian­jiang Evening News re­ported.

The re­porter wrote that dur­ing a half-hour visit, “nearly half of all trav­el­ers threw money for wishes — mainly mid­dle-aged women, chil­dren and young cou­ples”.

The Leifeng Pagoda, lo­cated in the West Lake scenic area, was orig­i­nally built in AD 977. It has fallen and been re­built sev- eral times. Most re­cently, it col­lapsed in 1924 but wasn’t re­built un­til 78 years later, in 2002.

The re­pair project un­earthed an un­der­ground shrine, and the pagoda was built above it. Relics are now fenced within glass walls.

But the 2-me­ter-high walls didn’t pre­vent the relics from be­com­ing the ob­jects of vis­i­tors’ en­thu­si­asm for bless­ings. Peo­ple con­tin­ued throw­ing money, and coins and pa­per notes blan­keted the relics.

“We clean the site twice a month, and more fre­quently in peak sea­son, so that vis­i­tors can en­joy view­ing the relics in­stead of a money hill,” said an ad­min­is­tra­tive staff mem­ber, who noted that it all adds to the work­load at the site.

Ac­cord­ing to the ad­min­is­tra­tion, more than 20,000 yuan ($3,000) is col­lected ev­ery year at the site. The money is used for main­te­nance of the relics, the news­pa­per re­ported.

Zhong Xiang­ping, vice-pres­i­dent of the Hangzhou His­tor­i­cal and Cul­tural As­so­ci­a­tion, was quoted as say­ing some Chi­nese folk­lore holds that peo­ple throw­ing coins in spe­cific spots can re­ceive bless­ings and peace. Be­liev­ers fear miss­ing any chance at a bless­ing, so they toss coins or notes just about any­where after find­ing that some pre­vi­ous vis­i­tors had done the same thing.

Last month, an 80-year-old woman board­ing an air­craft at Shang­hai Pudong In­ter­na­tional Air­port even threw some coins into the en­gine as a bless­ing for a safe flight. The flight was de­layed for five hours while the en­gine was checked.

In Zhong’s view, un­like the Trevi Foun­tain in Italy, Leifeng Pagoda is just a his­toric relic. “It has no func­tion for bless­ings,” Zhong said.

Throw­ing money also hin­ders relic pro­tec­tion ef­forts.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tive or­ga­ni­za­tions should do more to reg­u­late vis­i­tors’ be­hav­ior,” Xin­hua News Agency said in an ear­lier ed­i­to­rial opin­ion.

A staff mem­ber at the pagoda told the news­pa­per that no­tices posted on the glass wall tell peo­ple not to throw money.

“Pa­trolling staff mem­bers have also tried to dis­suade peo­ple from do­ing that. Peo­ple just ig­nored them. We hope the pub­lic will give us ideas to cut down on the prob­lem.”

LIN YUNLONG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Coins and notes were thrown into a dis­play at the Leifeng relic site by vis­i­tors seek­ing bless­ings.

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