An inferno that destroyed the spire and a large portion of the wooden roof structure of the 12th-century Notre Dame Cathedral in Pa
ris on Monday reinforced a cautionary message to Chinese authorities about the need to better protect vulnerable heritage sites.
The National Cultural Heritage Administration held a staff meeting on Tuesday night at wh
ich officials discussed the Paris fire and six major fires that have taken place at Chinese cultural heritage sites this year.
“The fire at Notre Dame in Paris rang the warning bell for us,” Song Xi
nchao, deputy director of the administration, said in an interview on Tuesday.
“The safety of cultural heritage sites is a red line that can never be crossed. It’s a global issue,” he said.
The six fires were in Sichuan, Fujian, Jiangxi, and Zhejiang provinces, officials said.
On Jan 6, a hall at Yunyan Temple in Jiangyou, Sichuan province, burned down. On
Feb 2, a wooden family temple from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) in Nanchang, Jiangxi, was destroyed by fire.
eing restored as well. We have no room for even the slightest error,” Song said.
Liu Qingzhu, a cultural heritage expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, “In anci
ent times, thunderstorms were the biggest threats for wooden architecture. They became much safer after l
ighting rods were widely installed. However, the use of electricity in restorations has created a new problem.”
Unlike the stone structures of much ancient architecture in the W
est, wood was the primary building material in ancient China. “If a fire similar to the one at Notre
Dame in Paris happened at a Chinese building, the whole building would probably burn down,” Liu said.
Hours after the fire in Paris, the Palace Museum in
Beijing, China’s former imperial palace from 1420 to 1911 and also known as the Forbidden City, held an eme
rgency meeting to go over its fire-prevention efforts. It is the world’s biggest architectural complex made of wood.