article by ye yijian (founder of fangtang think tank)

【1】

as for the south china historical trail, although there are many cognitive dimensions and principles in the process of its protection, utilization and activation, the cognition of it as a cultural heritage or linear cultural heritage space, undoubtedly, it is one of the most essential, basic and prerequisite cognition. this also means that whether it is the study and definition of the value of the south china historical trail, or the promotion of a series of practices on the activation and utilization of the south china historical trail, must be carried out with full respect for and recognition of the south china historical trail as a historical and cultural heritage.

as a matter of fact, in view of the protection and adaptive utilization of the south china historical trail, from the very beginning, the relevant departments and leaders of guangdong province made it clear that detailed field investigation should be taken as the main means to accurately grasp the number of the existing ancient post road and the route direction; to conduct a comprehensive survey and value assessment of the preservation status of all historical and cultural heritages along the post road, and to protect the real carriers of historical remains and the ecological pattern along the ancient post road, the units involved in the protection of cultural relics shall carry out protection in strict accordance with the law of the people’s republic of china on the protection of cultural relics and other relevant provisions; we should broaden the scope of protection and utilization of the ancient post road, lay a good foundation for the general planning of the ancient post road, adhere to the principles of authenticity, integrity, ecology, safety and sustainability, and ensure the quality and effect of the restoration of the historical trail.

against this background, as one of the most influential professionals in the field of cultural relics and archaeology in guangdong province, cao jin’s deep involvement in the entire process of heritage conservation and revitalisation of the south china historical trail is necessary, critical and important.

cao jin, doctor of architecture, director of the institute of cultural relics and archaeology of guangdong province, director of the china historical sites protection association, and director of the guangdong historical sites protection association, at the same time, he is also an expert in the expert pool of the famous city committee of the ministry of housing and construction, an expert in the excellent expert pool of the ministry of culture and tourism, and an expert in the expert pool of the state administration of cultural heritage. since at least may 2016, she and her institute of cultural relics and archaeology of guangdong province have been deeply involved in the preservation and revitalisation of the south china historical trail, not only witnessed the whole process of protection and utilization of the south china historical trail for more than five years, but also, in this process, from site archaeology to cultural excavation, from value interpretation to brand promotion, from master plan to project planning, from policy analysis to talent training, she and her team have played an important role, a lot of professional advice.

【2】

those who have heard cao jin’s speech say that she is a professional and elegant speaker, not only with academic rigor, but also with poetic romanticism and literary grace. precisely because of this, when she faced the south china historical trail, she could not only give a professional judgment from the angle of cultural relics, archaeology and heritage value, that is, from a broad and rich space-time dimension, to find a new place, to construct a new narrative, to give new meaning to these long-marginalized historical and cultural heritages, which many see as prosaic, and, based on her poetic character and understanding and insight of modern elegant life style, she can always find creative logic, setting and expression of facing and entering into modern life style.

for example, during the renovation of the ruins of the ancient post road, cao jin proposed that the traces of time should be preserved and that the changes in the local society as time passed should be respected. in particular, no restoration should be done to the ruins that have disappeared, and no fake antiques should be built, the new building needs to be contemporary and rustic.

from cao jin’s point of view, in addition to the essence of the road, guangdong also has to protect the ancient towns and villages that once thrived on the road, as well as the related local rules and regulations, customs and festivals, traditional crafts and legends, for example, the yue jie song and dui hua rice wine in shitang village, the he lou dance in yunan , and the “shi jie chu dao”in the ancient xijing road to achieve a comprehensive coverage of material and intangible cultural heritage.

of course, cao jin and her friends, who often walk the south china historical trail and the land in lingnan, sometimes see buildings or sites of special historical and cultural value because of a lack of adequate local knowledge and understanding, and when they encounter or are about to encounter destruction, they will also feel pity and worry, and even make their own signboards of “historic buildings”that have no legal effect, she said, “every day that we delay the demolition is a minute more likely to be protected.”“we are a race against the clock.”

“it is gratifying that in recent years, the concept of cultural heritage protection has been developing and progressing all over the world,”cao said. today, guangdong has paid more attention to the protection of “ancient cultural relics”and “modern historical sites.” at the same time, attention should be paid to the protection of “contemporary heritage”and “20th century heritage”, from the protection of “static heritage”to the protection of “living heritage”and “dynamic heritage” from the protection of public cultural relics and sites to the protection of “folk cultural heritage”reflecting the lifestyle of ordinary people, from the protection of individual cultural relics to the protection of cultural communities, then to the complex type (cultural line, etc.) direction.

in addition, cao jin said that since he took part in the conservation and utilization of the south china historical trail, he has personally felt that all parties concerned attach great importance to the opinions and suggestions in the field of cultural relics and archaeology, it shows that we have a strong sense of reverence for the real historical heritage and the universal principles of conservation. between heritage conservation and adaptive use, we will actively seek consensus through dialogue and find the best solution.

“it is through the ongoing dialogue of case after case and application that the parties to the dialogue will come to a new understanding that the era of placing too much emphasis on the conflict between heritage conservation and adaptive use has passed. from the perspective of the effectiveness and sustainability of heritage conservation, as well as the orientation and value realization of adaptive use, the parties concerned should not be so involved in the conflict, but should promote heritage conservation and adaptive use to a higher level and a higher quality through dialogue, creativity and technological innovation. “i think this is also one of the best practices for the conservation and revitalisation of the south china historical trail that can be used in other countries and regions as well as for other types of heritage conservation and revitalisation,”cao said.

[the following is the dialogue]

1.promoting north-south harmony and cultural exchange in history

fang tang think tank: in the eyes of many people, traditional roads like the south china historical trail can be said to be everywhere in china, and it is difficult to link them with cultural heritage, in your opinion, as an expert in the field of cultural relics, archaeology and heritage, the so-called heritage protection and revitalisation of the south china historical trail with such great fanfare in guangdong, even some people think it is a bit of a fuss, what is the heritage value of the south china historical trail?

cao jin: according to the official website, the south china historical trail is defined as the passage of documents, materials and people in guangdong province before 1913, including water and land routes, official roads and folk ancient roads, it is an important channel for economic exchange and cultural communication. with the development of modern transportation system, these ancient roads, which were once brilliant, accessible and noisy, have been gradually buried, covered, or forgotten in the mountains and mountains, among the luxuriant grass. they are full of years of beauty, but gradually fading.

as a historic and cultural heritage that needs urgent protection and attention, the concept of the south china historical trail has been constantly expanding and piling up. represented by the post road, the ancient roads all over the south of the five ridges are protected, including important cultural heritage such as the meiguan ancient road and the xijing ancient road, as well as a large number of unknown rural ancient roads, including mountain roads, waterways and land routes, as well as the way stations, tea kiosks, docks, bridges, passes, guard stations.

the formation of the road network in south china historical trail is actually the evolution of civilization and an important means of state rule. the history of the south china historical trail reflects the formation of the unique regional culture in lingnan, as well as lingnan area local knowledge rises to the national identity construction evolution course. therefore, although the south china historical trail is different from the “net red constitution”of the “south china sea i”, the south china historical trail is related to many important historical events in the process of social and economic development in guangdong, and is equally important for archaeology.

the heritage value of the south china historical trail is mainly reflected in two aspects: on the one hand, guangdong is a relatively independent and self-contained geographical unit, which is located in the south of china, the northern pillow and the five ridges, and the southern ocean. the ancient transportation routes scattered over the territory of guangdong province were the inevitable result of the central plain dynasty’s crossing over nanling mountains, breaking through the geographical restrictions, realizing immigration and development, and communicating with each other politically and economically. they were also a powerful tool for controlling borderlands and maintaining national unity.

on the other hand, the south china historical trail was not only an important transportation channel for people, goods and information, but also for close political, economic and cultural exchanges and contacts between various regions and people-to-people ties in guangdong province, it also extends north and south: it crosses the yangtze river basin in the north of nanling mountains, the hinterland of central plain, which is then connected by grand canal to the entire north; and it goes south to the sea, through the sea route of silk road and southeast asia, south asia and even west asia, north africa and other overseas countries, various civilizations to generate continuous cultural exchanges and communication.

according to the nature of the cultural heritage on the south china historical trail, the south china historical trail can be divided into four types: first, the ancient road and the traffic historical sites, that is, the historical trail itself, including the ancient post road and its related ancillary facilities, such as the tea pavilion, the post station, the pass, etc. second, the historical sites of cities and villages, reflecting the mutual relationship between settlements and historical trails, many traditional villages were once prosperous because of the historical trails, and later declined due to the weakening of the traffic function of the historical trails. third, the historical sites of commodity production and trade, reflecting the economic functions of the south china historical trail in regional exchange, such as the ancient pottery kilns, which were often located in places where transportation was convenient because of the need for water transportation after the production of ceramics.four, the multi-cultural historical sites, it reflects the cultural functions of the south china historical trail, such as the cultural exchange, the dissemination of values, which took place on the historical trail, and left the witness of historical remains.

taking the above-mentioned heritage as the core protection content, and then evolving as the object of spatial planning, “south china historical trail”, that is, taking guangzhou as the center, extending in four directions to the east, west, south and north, running through every district and county in the province, linking nearly 1,000 historical sites.

so, in the light of the practice of conservation and revitalisation of the south china historical trail promoted by guangdong province today, we might like to understand it this way: if the historical trails, linked by land and water, and with numerous knots, in history, facilitated the circulation of the north and the south, today, the protection and utilization of the heritage of the historical trail can be said to be the confluence of all directions. it is precisely because of the convergence of various forces, so that the protection and utilization of the south china historical trail broke through the static, isolated protection, and presented an unprecedented rich and colorful, creative.

2. the idea and demand of “revitalize village with tao, revitalize guangdong with tao”

fangtang think tank: it is in view of the distribution of the south china historical trail and the complexity of the type of heritage, compared with the traditional conservation, restoration and adaptive use of the ancient buildings or the dotted cultural heritage of a certain place, the conservation, restoration and revitalisation of the south china historical trail should be different. is it more complicated? moreover, intuitively, in view of these scattered in the lingnan land heritage, the cost of restoration and protection will be very high, is simply bottomless pit.

cao jin: yes, the special nature of cultural line heritage determines the difficulty and complexity of its protection and utilization. the restoration of the historical remains of the south china historical trail, first of all, is the restoration of the cultural relics and heritage. we should follow the principles of authenticity and integrity, not interfere too much, and keep the old things as far as possible, and preserve its integrity. secondly, when repairing the historical trails, we should consider its ecology and safety. for example, the renovation should not destroy the ecology around the historical trails and ensure the safety of walking. third, it needs to be repaired with sustainability in mind. we hope that after the repair, there will be a virtuous circle of the historical trails.

the formation of these principles is directly related to the characteristics of the heritage of the south china historical trail and the goal of the south china historical trail. when the south china historical trail were abandoned by modern transportation systems, they were often covered and cut up, or left in the depths of the mountains in northern guangdong and western guangdong, traditional culture lost its heritage. in this case, guangdong province started the work of protection and activation and utilization of the south china historical trail, the project will eventually become a systematic and comprehensive project initiated by the government, supported by professional volunteers, unselfish cooperation between departments and resource sharing, and participation of the public, the activities around the south china historical trail played a great role in the cultural exchange and integration of the whole guangdong province.

“revitalize village with tao, revitalize guangdong with tao” is one of the important concepts and goals of the south china historical trail, the ways and characteristics of the activation and utilization of the south china historical trail are as follows: first, the south china historical trail is like a longitude and latitude through time and space, the grand historical process of central plain’s cross-border migration, development, political and economic exchanges across nanling mountains is presented in the contemporary era; second, multi-sectoral interaction and social sharing. through a series of sports events and thematic activities, it not only directly enhanced the brand influence of the south china historical trail, but also consolidated the local people’s value identification, and enhanced the local people’s cultural self-confidence, it also brought tourists and consumers directly to the south china historical trail and the areas along it, and promoted the product and service value realization of related resources. moreover, the opinions of experts in the fields of architecture, planning, engineering, archaeology, botany and education were fully respected and incorporated throughout the process, and taking fully into account the views and related demands of the direct stakeholders, including the villagers along the route, which provides a guarantee for the sustainability of the conservation and revitalisation of the south china historical trail.

it should be said that up to now, guangdong’s exploration and practice on the protection and adaptive utilization of the south china historical trail has not only formed more consensus on value and practical consensus in the province, but also obtained various value recognition and action support, more and more experts in the field of cultural heritage from home and abroad have praised and agreed.

for example, ruan yisan, a professor at the tongji university of architecture and urban planning and president of the shanghai ruan yisan city heritage protection foundation, said that the overall protection and utilization of south china historical trail in guangdong is a typical case of cultural heritage protection from point to face to regional cultural routes and cultural common areas. in his view, our country has a long history and a vast area, and many historical trails have been preserved from the point of view of the historical trails alone. however, the protection of historical trails has been fragmented and simplified for a long time, and the historical trails in many places are under different administrative jurisdiction, problems causing difficulties in overall management. “the preservation and development of the south china historical trail is an attempt to resolve this contradiction. from the height of the whole guangdong province, we have made a lot of efforts and attempts from the aspects of resource integration and local cooperation. we have set a good example not only for guangdong province, for the locality, but also for the whole country. it is worth promoting and learning.”

fangtang think tank: as a participant and observer, looking back now, is there anything you regret, or can continue to improve and perfect in the next stage?

cao jin: of course, in addition to reviewing and affirming the efforts and achievements made, in the new development node, we also need to think about the future development of the historical trail from a more diverse perspective. as an observer, it seems to me that in terms of work, after five years of practice, the south china historical trail has spawned many brands, including directional competitions, literary tours competitions, children’s drawing competitions, etc. , from the point of view of working mechanism, it also has the process of gradual transformation, and the main body of working responsibility will gradually sink to the counties and cities.

in the future, we also need to further refine the academic research on the protection and utilization of the south china historical trail, including sorting out the historical resources, refining the concept, expounding the value, etc. , it can even be promoted to be a “historical trail”discipline by improving its research. compared with the protection and utilization of other important heritages in china, the theory of south china historical trail is still relatively weak. in the process of research and value interpretation, attention should also be paid to the world context, so as to expand the worldwide value and significance of the conservation and utilization of the linear heritage of the south china historical trail.

there is also a need to pay more attention to the introduction of market forces, which can not be ignored in terms of the sustainability and scale of inputs and the innovation of product and service development, perhaps the most important thing in the future. after years of efforts, from cultural relics archaeology, cultural excavation, infrastructure layout, key node construction, brand marketing, and other aspects, have accumulated a very good foundation, and carried out some marketing attempts, then, based on the new stage of development, it is clear that there is a further introduction of market forces and conditions. as far as i know, the relevant departments have made full preparations and specific arrangements for this.

basing on the tradition , making innovations and growing endless. we are glad to see that more students have taken over the relay on the south china historical trail. these youthful powers will make the academic achievements around the south china historical trail possible in the future. they will blossom like the flowers along the historical trail, to become the hot spots and focus of heritage conservation, and to make the subsequent conservation and revitalisation of the south china historical trail more imaginative.

3. there is a huge amount of spillover value from heritage conservation and activation

fangtang think tank: the creative promotion of guangdong’s rural revitalization strategy is considered to be the most representative spillover value in the process of protection and activation of south china historical trail.what do you think of it?

cao jin: at the end of 2017, the general plan for the protection and utilization of the guangdong province south china historical trail  was released, based on more than 200 historical trail remains scattered in guangdong province, the historical trend and cultural connotation of the south china historical trail have been systematized, and a comprehensive pattern of protection and utilization of the south china historical trail has been constructed. the whole plan focuses on the protection of the historical trail, but the real concern is the road next to the village, the people. through a series of activities related to the protection and utilization of the south china historical trail, many old villages have been rejuvenated.

for example, the old house next to the historical trail in xiajie village has become a state-level creative center, which has made many agricultural products more widely and better marketable; shitang village has brought people because of the continuous orienteering competitions and cultural tours, the price of heaped rice wine has risen tenfold; lanzhai villagers have picked up long held traditions and built bed and breakfasts to fuel the village’s economic growth. during the long holiday, many ancient villages became the explosion of rural tourism routes.

hexinwu was not originally within the scope of the construction plan for the demonstration section, but when the villagers in the village heard about the south china historical trail project, they jointly wrote a letter to the organizing committee and applied to be the match point for the south china historical trail orienteering competition. after on-site inspection, finally, a orienteering competition was held in this maze-like house. not only that, but with the help of guangzhou university, the chinese university of hong kong, and the university of padua in italy, it has also become an architectural education workshop. historical trail network linked up with ancient villages, these villages and historical trail experienced the rise and fall together, and now because of the historical trail activation and full of vitality.

fangtang think tank: in addition, the construction of the research base of educational history in south china has now become an important part of the preservation and adaptive utilization of the heritage of the south china historical trail, and has achieved better results, how to understand the relationship between the research base construction and the protection and utilization of the south china historical trail?

cao jin: the history of education in south china and the construction of the corresponding research base were developed step by step in the process of promoting the revitalisation and utilization of the south china historical trail. in the southern foothills of nanling mountains and in pingshi, north of shaoguan, there is a little-known hill with a unique name: the observatory hill. the name bears witness to a legendary history in the war of resistance against japan: in 1940, the national sun yat-sen university moved to pingshi and the college of science was located in tangkou village; according to records, the observatory of the college of science was located on the observatory hill.

based on this clue, a team of professional volunteers from the “three masters”, the guangdong provincial institute of cultural relics and archaeology, the south china university of technology and the national sun yat-sen university visited pingshi and accidentally found the site of the national sun yat-sen university. this discovery, together with the former residence of pingshi school-running division during the anti-japanese war in lechang, shaoguan, was also selected as “a major discovery of south china historical trail”.

during the anti-japanese war, the guangdong, hong kong and macao universities, represented by the national sun yat-sen university, the lingnan university, the provincial college of arts and sciences, pui ching and pooi to middle schools, broke through the artillery blockade, they moved to lechang pingshi in the north of guangdong, zhenjiang village and dongpi in lianzhou. they continued to run schools until the victory of the anti-japanese war. they wrote a glorious page on the history of education in china along the ancient post road. at that time, it can be said that there were many outstanding professors, many famous professors were teaching here. all schools insisted on training professional talents, publicizing the war against japan and saving the nation, upholding academic ideals, practicing knowledge to save the country, and training tens of thousands of students for the country, a large number of outstanding talents have made great contributions to the construction of new china. at the same time, they have also carried out universal education for farmers in the entire rural areas of north guangdong. in turn, people in the mountainous areas have provided very strong support to these schools.

in the process of activating and utilizing the south china historical trail, we hope to work together to creatively preserve these precious revolutionary sites and promote the revival of the local countryside in the form of promoting the red revolutionary culture, create an open experience natural history museum. we, the professional volunteers of the three masters, who graduated from the south china university of technology and national sun yat-sen university, donated funds to build a number of commemorative columns to pay tribute to these “mr. pingshi”, who preached in the flames of war and held the lights in the dark, let the flowers spread out in the wilderness, let the music of the silent people in the wilderness.

at present, the educational history research base in south china is being built on the basis of history and the south china historical trail, it will become a base for patriotic education, various research activities, pursuit of teachers and scholars, and cultural root-seeking tour for students of primary and secondary schools. at the same time, the research base will continue to combine the resources of ancient post road, human history and natural scenery to build a comprehensive ecotourism route, forming a new tourist hot spot in northern guangdong and boosting the development of local tourism economy.

4.the historic and cultural heritage of the south china historical trail is going to rejuvenate

fangtang think tank: in fact, from our point of view, the south china historical trail has become an important clue and perspective for us to re-understand the lingnan culture and lingnan region, what new achievements and discoveries have been made as a result of the conservation and revitalisation of the south china historical trail?

cao jin: yes, with the conservation and utilization of the south china historical trail, many historical and cultural relics have returned to public view. on december 27,2018, the guangdong provincial administration of cultural heritage, the guangdong provincial department of natural resources, the guangdong provincial department of housing and urban-rural development, the guangdong provincial association for the preservation of historic sites, and the guangdong province “three masters”professional volunteer association, they jointly published the important discovery of the south china historical trail, which announced to the public 15 important discoveries along the south china historical trail, including new archaeological finds, new discoveries of investigation and research, and new discoveries made by the community.

major discoveries on the south china historical trail include but are not limited to the following, as well as the major new understanding of the existing physical: first, with historical, artistic, scientific, social and cultural values of buildings, structures, inscriptions, slogans and other physical remains; second, the remains of historical trails, which can reflect political and military intentions, economic and trade, cultural and religious exchanges, as well as the migration of historical figures and people; third, in terms of architectural forms, planning and design, and their integration with the environment and landscape, the fourth is the historical, artistic and scientific value of the archaeological culture sites and architectural sites.

any historical and cultural remains nominated for inclusion in the important discovery of south china historical trail must have a certain historical, artistic, scientific, social or cultural value, and meet one of the following criteria: first, buried in the underground remains or sites must be approved by the administrative department of cultural relics excavation, and has a clear archaeological conclusion; second, the historical trail and its related remains discovered by members of the public have attracted wide attention from government departments, scientific research institutions or the mass media, and have been investigated and verified by experts and scholars; third, after investigation, research and scientific research, it has a scientific and reasonable understanding or a new interpretation of the historical, artistic, scientific, social and cultural value of the original historical trail and its related remains.

for example, guangzhou lotus academy ruins. the site of the lotus academy is located in an open area at the foothills of the southeastern fragrance hill mountains in the south of zengcheng. the site layout is very elegant. 25 meters to the northwest of the site, there are “under a vast sky”rock carvings on the cliff, and the “middle main stone”is carved on the top, situated on the central axis of the lotus college building, it is presumed to be related to the layout of the lotus college building. the shape and layout of the site of lotus’s academy in the ming dynasty, discovered through archaeological exploration and excavation, corroborated by relevant documents and records, is the only important site among the more than 40 academies founded by zhan ruoshui that has been excavated and preserved intact, it provides very important archaeological materials for the study of ancient academies in china, especially in the ming dynasty. it has important historical research and social and cultural value, and is an important archaeological heritage.

or the site of the great continent bay. located in the northwest corner of sanzhou port in the northwest of shangchuan island, taishan city, jiangmen city, the south side of the holy saint francis xavier cemetery is known locally as “hua wan ping”. the site is an early sino-portuguese maritime trade stronghold with a clear accumulation of cultural strata of export porcelain of the ming dynasty and relatively clear records in chinese and portuguese historical documents, is the ming dynasty export porcelain research, early sino-portuguese trade relations and sea route of silk road research important material. the site is located on the ancient maritime silk road, and its remains, such as porcelain for export, are clearly dated and rich in connotation, with a relatively clear origin, as well as a relatively clear route, direction and destination for foreign trade, age of discovery is an important manifestation of the early interaction between china and the west.

the ancient site group of shangzheng village is located in the area of shangzheng village, daba town, heping county, and distributed on the platform of heping river and its tributaries. this group of ancient sites established a relatively complete cultural sequence of pre-qin period in northeast guangdong. the remains found at the site are of both lingnan indigenous cultures and cultural elements from the yangtze plain and fujian regions, it provides the most important historical materials for the study of the genealogy of the archaeological culture, the settlement patterns of the pre-qin period, the cultural exchange between the lingnan and the north of the five ridges, and the social complexity and the sinicization process in the early period of the south of the five ridges. the cultural relics found in this ancient site group reflect the important position of heping county as a passageway connecting lingnan and lingbei, in the transportation, cultural exchange and migration of people in the pre-qin baiyue region, it is also the passage of economy and culture, and the passage of time and space to witness the integration of lingnan into the historical process of chinese civilization.

mountains and rivers have recorded the vicissitudes of life and brilliant, a tree and a grass to reveal the fragrance of ancient civilization. running on the south china historical trail, we can enjoy the beautiful natural scenery and experience the thick and abundant history and culture. it is believed that with the development of conservation and utilization of the south china historical trail, the historical and cultural heritage on the south china historical trail will be re-glowing and become more familiar.

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