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China: Heritage Sites of Confucius and Mencius Restored to Glory, Better Life for Local Communities

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About two hours’ train ride from Beijing, in the south-west of Shandong Province, are Qufu and Zoucheng. These cities are the hometowns of Confucius and Mencius – two great philosophers of ancient China. The temple, cemetery and family mansion of Confucius in Qufu, collectively known as “San Kong” (three Confucius sites), were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

The Confucius Temple in Qufu was first built in 478 BC., shortly after his death. It was destroyed and reconstructed a number of times over the centuries.  The existing temple was rebuilt and renovated during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. With yellow tiles and red walls, the temple complex resembles the Forbidden City in Beijing, and ranks as the second largest historical building complexes in China.

The Mencius Temple in Zoucheng dates back to the year 1037 in the Northern Song Dynasty. The current building was reconstructed around the year 1672 during the Qing dynasty after it was destroyed in an earthquake. Near the temple is the Mencius family mansion and cemetery.

Weathering took its toll on the ancient Confucius and Mencius temples and related historical buildings, as shown by leaking roofs and damaged ceilings, slanting and unstable walls and pillars, damaged color paintings on woods, broken stone tablets, and ancient trees infected with diseases and insects.  Urgent actions were required to conserve these cultural monuments and relics and prevent them from further deterioration.  

Rehabilitating historic buildings and relics

Supported with a US$50 million loan from the World Bank, a US$130 million project was launched in 2011 to enhance cultural heritage conservation and tourism services in Qufu and Zoucheng.

“It is the first world heritage protection project using international financing for both China and Shandong,” said Zhou Xiaobo, a deputy director of the provincial cultural relics bureau and head of the project management office.  

The conservation plan included renovation of cultural heritage sites and buildings related to Confucius and Mencius, renovation of historic sites in the Lu Old City and Ming Old City, and infrastructure upgrading in the old towns.

The Shandong Confucius and Mencius Cultural Heritage Conservation Project took five years and eight months to complete.  By mid-2017, 40 historic buildings and sites, such as halls, shrines, pavilions, gates and archways, were renovated with better site management and guiding interpretation for visitors using modern technology. 17 cultural heritage sites were adaptively reused. More than 400 stone tablets with inscriptions were cleaned and repaired.

Mount Ni, the birthplace of Confucius and location of a temple dedicated to the father of the sage and an ancient academy, experienced the largest-scale restoration since the Qing Dynasty. It won a national prize for cultural heritage conservation top ten in 2013. 

Conservation work was also extended to thousands of ancient cypress trees. Plans were tailor-made for each of them that included propping, pruning, holes repairing, insects and diseases treatment, and installation of ID plates.  

The Old City of the State of Lu, a state founded in the Zhou Dynasty in the 11th century BC., still has ruins of the ancient city wall and moat, palaces and residential sites, roads and irrigation systems. Work was undertaken to protect these historic sites, and add new wooden walkways, rest areas and sanitation facilities for tourists, making it a new national archeological park.

In the Old City built in the Ming Dynasty, a historic courtyard-style mansion and the county “Yamen” – the county office building – were selected for overhaul, with repair to the roofs and walls, re-flooring and repainting of the wooden structure.

Traditional methods, craft skills and materials were used in the conservation and restoration of all historic buildings and relics.  All these methods and skills were also carefully recorded for future reference and use. 

Improving lives and economy

Residents in the old cities of Qufu and Zoucheng are direct beneficiaries of infrastructure upgrading that included repaving of roads, renovation of water and sewerage systems, and environmental cleaning, which has significantly improved their quality of life.

Clean water was diverted Sihe River to the moat of the Ming Old City in Qufu, creating a pleasant public space for residents and visitors. The Yinli River in Zoucheng was dredged and cleaned up, with its banks reinforced and trees planted. The stinky canal became a green linear park where people come to enjoy the waterfront. As a result, the number of small businesses along the river, such as restaurants, homestays and shops, has doubled, generating jobs and incomes for local residents.

The upgraded infrastructure in old cities under the project contributed to the fast increase of revenues of small business. The average annual revenues of small businesses in the renovated streets more than doubled during the project period. A survey found that 100% residents and business owners were satisfied with the urban regeneration program.

Visitors to Qufu and Zhoucheng are also direct beneficiaries from improved tourist information and services, including new electronic tour guide systems, multi-lingual signage boards, tour maps and other tourist facilities.  The Zoucheng Museum, upgraded and refitted to highlight Mencius, enables visitors to gain a better understanding of the sage’s life and thinking with help of multimedia and other modern technologies.

The annual number of tourists grew significantly from 2011 to 2016 – from 4.26 million to 4.94 million in Qufu, and from 100,800 to 256,800 in Zoucheng, with tourist revenues increased from RMB 8.9 billion ($1.35 billion) and RMB 2.2 billion ($330,000 million) to RMB 15.8 billion ($2.4 billion) and RMB 6.1 billion ($930,000 million) in the two cities respectively.  Tourist satisfaction increased from 48% to 96%.

A total of 2,349,000 people, including residents and tourists, benefitted from the project.  

Supporting cultural heritage protection in China

The World Bank has worked with China in cultural heritage protection since the 1990s, implementing 16 projects with a total cost of about US$6.98 billion, including US$1.87 billion from the World Bank. China has the largest number of World Bank-supported cultural heritage projects globally.

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Think outside: 5 ways to disconnect and enjoy the outdoors

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Life is hectic, full of demands at work and home. Add digital distractions like computers, cell phones, tablets and more, and it’s no wonder many people are experiencing record-high levels of stress.

One simple solution is to shift your perspective by spending more time outdoors. When you do an enjoyable activity outside, stress begins to melt away as you bask in the fresh air, sunshine and beauty of nature.

This doesn’t mean you have to be a savvy outdoor adventurer. There is a growing movement of people of all ages and walks of life embracing nature by finding new ways to discover the world around them. If you feel the draw of the outdoors, consider these five ideas for disconnecting and enjoying activities outside:

1) Try something new

When you challenge yourself by trying a new outdoor activity, you gain confidence and build lasting memories. You might also find new connections with a shared perspective. Curious about fishing? Look for local opportunities and guides. Want to learn how to rock climb? Research local classes and clubs. Interested in an experience of a lifetime? Explore the many options Polaris Adventures provides. These expertly tailored trips throughout the country let you try new ride-and-drive experiences that you’re sure to never forget.

2) Take a hike

One of the easiest ways to explore the outdoors is something that virtually anyone can do: hiking. Put on comfortable, sturdy athletic shoes and have fun discovering the parks and forests around you. Whether you opt for paved trails or a more challenging path through the forest, it’s a wonderful way to have fun by yourself or with others. Make a day of it by packing lunch or other snacks for mid-hike picnics where you can take in the grandeur of Mother Nature.

3) Explore the open road

There’s something freeing about the open road and exploring the nation’s highways, byways and hidden winding roadways. The fresh air and breeze in your face is second only to the sights and sounds of the new surroundings you experience as you explore cities, towns and country sides. As you look for your next adventure, try an alternative to a car or motorcycle that provides an exhilarating experience, such as a three-wheeled motor vehicle. These vehicles are as fun to drive as they look, plus most can comfortably seat two people for joint outdoor exploration.

4) Head off road

Find endless possibilities beyond the pavement. Few things can compare to traveling off road and discovering hidden spots and new places. With Polaris off-road vehicles, the options are only limited by your desire to explore. Pack up your gear and head out knowing you’re in a machine made to journey through the forests, deserts, mountains and beyond. Go at your own speed and see where it takes you.

5) Wander the water

Whether it’s a pond, lake, river or ocean, the water is equal parts soothing and exhilarating. It provides countless opportunities to spend time outside, depending on your personal preferences. Fish from the shoreline. Rent a canoe or kayak to discover bays and sandbars. Kick back and explore on a Bennington Pontoon. Try your hand at paddle boarding. When in doubt, just plan a beach day with a group of friends or the whole family.

As life continues to pull people in every direction, it’s more important than ever to take a moment and spend time outside. With these ideas, it’s easier than ever to enjoy connecting with others and the outdoors. For more ideas about what to do outside, visit Polaris.

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Trips that transform: How airline miles can transform a child’s life

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Maksim was just a few months shy of 2 years old when his parents rushed him to the emergency room for severe flu-like symptoms, only to find that their little boy was suffering from kidney failure. Since that day, Maksim has spent most of his six years in and out of hospitals, doctors’ offices and dialysis treatments.

After receiving a life-saving kidney transplant from his father, Maksim and his family had to remain vigilant to protect him from any risk of infection by limiting his daily activities and exposure to other people. He has not had the life most children enjoy, as he is unable to go to school and play with other children.

Despite all of this, Maksim has always kept a positive attitude, as his parents observed: “His joy blows us away.” Maksim’s parents have chosen to put some of their own plans on the back burner while coping with his mounting medical needs and getting Maksim the care he needs to survive. Most of what Maksim knows and remembers in his short life is being sick — a life filled with needles, surgeries, side effects from medications, dialysis, hospitalizations and more.

Until Maksim’s social worker told his family about Make-A-Wish(R).

Maksim is fascinated by sharks, and he wanted to visit Hawaii to spend time at the ocean. “I like playing with shark toys,” Maksim said. “And I have a lot of shark books! I love when my parents read to me.”

Due to medical delays, it was awhile before Maksim would be able to take such a trip, but once his wish came true, his parents described his wish trip to Hawaii as “pure joy.”

“Every waking moment outside of his medical care was focused on him having fun,” Maksim’s parents said. “We all got to pause life’s responsibilities and focus on fun and family. It was such a unique opportunity to take time out and do something special, because he has to live with this affliction for the rest of his life. At the end of the day, there just isn’t much time left to spend together because there is always something else demanding your attention. Being granted time away like this brings tears to our eyes.”

At Make-A-Wish, 77 percent of children’s wishes involve some form of travel. Make-A-Wish has the resources to grant only half of those wishes. To make all of those life-changing wishes come true, the organization needs more than 3 billion airline miles or points and 25,000 room nights every year.

If you have unused or close-to-expiring airline miles/points, you can make a difference in the life of a child battling a critical illness. Donate your miles or points through participating travel sponsors, including American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue and Delta Air Lines. And, once you donate miles and points to Make-A-Wish, they never expire.

Here’s how you can help:

1. Visit wish.org/travel.

2. Select the airline(s) of the miles/points you would like to donate.

3. Know you have transformed the lives of wish kids and their families with your donation!

Your gift of airline miles/points is crucial for children with critical illnesses. That’s because a wish trip creates an opportunity for a child to experience life beyond illness. It’s also a chance for a family like Maksim’s to reconnect and get much-deserved respite.

When asked what his favorite part of his wish trip to Hawaii was, Maksim responded, “I think the whole trip was my favorite part!”

To learn more about Make-A-Wish, visit wish.org or check out #TripsThatTransform on Instagram to see some of the amazing places wish families have experienced, thanks to Make-A-Wish donors and partners.

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Top 4 Drives around Beverly Hills and L.A. to Experience in a 2019 Maserati Levante SUV

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With a deep history of more than 100 years of Italian craftsmanship, Maserati’s DNA is a balance of luxurious, sophisticated style paired with the soul of a race car.  And as part of a new stay-and-drive package at Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel, the following driving tour suggestions will help guests experience the famed Maserati lifestyle and all that Beverly Hills and Los Angeles has to offer.

Rodeo Drive “Italian Craftsmanship” Loop

  • 1 mile (1.6 kilometre) loop that takes approximately 10 minutes without traffic

Undeniably one of the most famous streets around the globe, experience luxury on this loop around the legendary Rodeo Drive. Expertly pairing Maserati’s history of creating exquisite masterpieces with the storied history of Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel, car aficionados and enthusiasts will enjoy the best of Beverly Hills from a Maserati Levante.

Starting Point: Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel – 9500 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, California 90212

  • Depart Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel, originally built on the Beverly Auto Speedway. The then American board track, built in 1919, was home to speeding Model Ts and saw the likes of prominent race car drivers such as Jimmy Murphy and Harlan Fengler before the Hotel’s opening in 1928.
  • Head west on Wilshire Blvd (0.1 miles).
  • Make a slight right onto N Camden Drive (0.3 miles).
  • Turn right at the 2nd cross street onto S Santa Monica Blvd (390 feet).
  • If you look to your left you will pass the Bang & Olufsen store, which is one of the brands that develops sound systems for Maserati.
  • Turn right onto Rodeo Drive.
  • On the right before you get to Brighton Way you will see BVLGARI at 401 N Rodeo Drive.  This legendary Italian jeweller creates one of a kind timepieces for Maserati owners.
  • Continue down Rodeo Drive and on your right you will see the Ermengildo Zegna store at 337 N. Rodeo Drive.  Zegna and Maserati are long standing partners and Zegna exclusively creates an optional silk interiors and soon to come in Spring 2020 a leather woven interiors for Maserati.
  • If you continue down Rodeo Drive to Wilshire Blvd you will be back at the renowned, Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel. Make a left on Wilshire Blvd, then a right on El Camino Drive, entering through the guard gates modelled after the Buckingham Palace gates.

End Point:  Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel – 9500 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, California 90212

Mulholland Drive Scenic Overlook

  • 6.2 miles (10 kilometres) that takes approximately 20 minutes without traffic
  • Pro Tip: Program 8591 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles, California 90046 into your GPS

Best done in the daytime, stop at this popular overlook to see the city stretching into the distance beneath, complete with breath-taking views.

Starting Point: Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel – 9500 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, California 90212

  • Head east on Wilshire Blvd toward S El Camino Drive (479 feet).
  • Turn left onto N Beverly Drive (1.7 miles).
  • Stay left and continue  onto Coldwater Canyon Drive (2.8 miles).
  • Turn right onto Mulholland Drive.
  • Destination will be on the left.

End Point:  Mulholland Scenic Overlook  8591 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles, California 90046

Pacific Coast Highway to the Getty Villa  

  • 13.4 Miles (22 kilometres) that takes approximately 31 minutes without traffic
  • Pro Tip: The Getty Villa 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades, California 90272 can be added to the GPS

Enjoy scenic coastal views as you travel on one of American’s most scenic roadways, the Pacific Coast Highway to the esteemed Getty Villa. Offering an experience of ancient Greek and Roman art in a setting that recreates a first-century Roman villa, the museum is home to J. Paul Getty’s antiquities collection. The two-floor museum displays art that spans the 7,000 years from the end of the Stone Age to the fall of the Roman Empire and is complemented by stunning fountains and gardens.

Starting Point: Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel – 9500 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, California 90212

  • Head south on S Rodeo Drive toward Charleville Blvd (0.5 miles).
  • Turn right onto W Olympic Blvd (1.8 miles).
  • Continue straight to stay on W Olympic Blvd (0.1 miles).
  • Turn left onto Overland Ave (1.1 miles).
  • Use the left 2 lanes to turn left to merge onto I-10 W (0.2 miles).
  • Follow I-10 W and CA-1 N to Getty Villa Drive 13 min (9.6 miles).
  • Merge onto I-10 W (2.8 miles).
  • Keep left to stay on I-10 W (1.7 miles).
  • Continue onto CA-1 N (5.1 miles).
  • Turn right onto Getty Villa Drive.

End Point:  The Getty Villa 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades, California 90272

Peterson Automotive Museum

  • 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometres) that takes approximately 7 minutes without traffic
  • Pro Tip: Program 6060 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90036 to the GPS

Known as the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles not only invented the magic of movies and television, but in turn is recognised as the driver behind the nation’s passion for vehicles due to Hollywood’s influence on crafting captivating car movies throughout the years. To learn more about Hollywood’s impact on the car culture, visit the Petersen Automotive Museum. Featuring more than 300 vehicles, make sure to visit the Made in Italy installation, which guides guests through the manufacturing process of the Maserati Levante, and the new Hollywood Dream Machines: Vehicles of Science Fiction and Fantasy, which explores the cult classic films and stories, bringing them to life through props, design drawings and physical vehicle models.

Starting Point: Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel – 9500 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, California 90212

  • Head east on Wilshire Blvd towards El Camino Drive (2.3 miles).
  • Turn right onto S Fairfax Ave (89 feet).
  • Turn left into Petersen Automotive Museum Parking.

End Point:  Petersen Automotive Museum 6060 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90036

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