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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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Norwegian Cruise Line Introduces Norwegian Viva

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Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), the innovator in global cruise travel, today unveiled Norwegian Viva, the next ship in its brand-new Prima Class.

Providing guests with elevated experiences including more wide-open spaces, thoughtful and stunning design and exceptional service, Norwegian Viva will begin sailing remarkable Mediterranean itineraries in June 2023, homeporting in key Southern European port cities including Lisbon, Portugal; Venice (Trieste) and Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy; and Athens (Piraeus), Greece. She will then sail the Southern Caribbean for her 2023-2024 Winter Season offering warm-weather getaways from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Mirroring the upscale design and structure of her record-breaking sister ship Norwegian Prima, Norwegian Viva, also built by renowned Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri in Marghera, Italy, will debut at 965 feet long, 142,500 gross tons and accommodate 3,219 guests at double occupancy. Travelers will live up every second of their journey in the most spacious accommodations including the brand’s largest inside, ocean view and balcony category staterooms.

The world-class vessel will not only offer the highest staffing levels and space ratio of any new cruise ship in the contemporary and premium cruise categories and largest variety of suite categories available at sea, but will also boast a redefined The Haven by Norwegian, NCL’s ultra-premium keycard only access ship-within-a-ship concept. The Haven’s public areas and 107 suites designed by Piero Lissoni, one of Italy’s most renowned designers, will feature an expansive sundeck, a stunning infinity pool overlooking the ship’s wake and an outdoor spa with a glass-walled sauna and cold room.

The Prima Class’ variety of recreational activities also make their elevated comeback on Norwegian Viva with only-available-on-Prima-Class experiences including the fastest freefall drop dry slides at sea with The Rush and The Drop and the largest three-level racetrack at sea with the Viva Speedway.

Norwegian Viva will feature Ocean Boulevard, the 44,000 square foot outdoor walk way which wraps around the entire ship;  Indulge Food Hall featuring 11 varieties of eateries; The Concourse boasting an outdoor sculpture garden; expansive pool decks and infinity style pools at Infinity Beach and Oceanwalk, showcasing glass bridges above water.

Harry Sommer, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line, said: “Norwegian Viva sets the standard in the premium segment, illustrating our commitment to pushing boundaries in four main areas: wide open space, service that puts guests first, thoughtful design and experiences beyond expectation. We have taken everything our guests love to the next level with this brand-new class of ships designed with them in mind.”

Norwegian Viva will boast eye-catching hull art designed by Italian graffiti and sculpture artist Manuel Di Rita, commonly known as “Peeta,” who also illustrated the exceptional hull design on Norwegian Prima. World-class architects who helped design Norwegian Prima including Rockwell Group, SMC Design and Miami-based Studio Dado, also have returned to influence the aesthetic of various restaurants, staterooms and public areas.

“Norwegian Viva, the second of six Prima Class vessels being built with us, reinforces the great collaboration between Norwegian Cruise Line and Fincantieri,” said Luigi Matarazzo, General Manager Merchant Ships Division at Fincantieri. “We were extremely satisfied that Norwegian Prima, the first of the new class, earned record-breaking bookings and we are excited to see how Norwegian Viva will live up to her sister ship. As we proved our resilience during these challenging times, this announcement represents another testament to Fincantieri´s global leadership role in the cruise sector.”

The first two Prima Class vessels, Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva, will feature cutting-edge alternative technologies, such as a NOx reduction system (SCR), that reduce the ship’s overall environmental impact.  SCR catalysts filter out sulfur oxides up to 98% and nitrogen oxides up to 90%, ensuring the vessels meet Tier III NOx compliance. Further, they will be equipped with an Exhaust Gas Cleaning System (EGCS), an Advanced Wastewater Treatment System to treat and clean all wastewater to meet stringent international standards and Cold Ironing functionality to connect to onshore power grids to further reduce emissions while in port.

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Surprise Your Family with These 3 Memorable Gifts

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Finding the perfect gift for your family can be a challenge, especially when you’re not quite sure where to start. And since chances are everyone in your family has different tastes, you might be wondering which types of gifts will appease everyone. Fortunately, there’s a long list of gifts that will cover all of your family’s bases. 

Narrowing down your list will ensure you’ve given plenty of thought to each idea, ideally ending up with your family being beyond thrilled with what you’ve chosen. Here are three memorable gifts to consider giving your family. 

1. An Unforgettable Travel Experience 

Traveling with your family is one of the best ways to spend quality time together away from it all. It’s a way to explore, experience new things and make plenty of memories. Surprising your family with the trip of a lifetime would be a wonderful gift for everyone, so why not add one to your list this year? 

One of the best parts about traveling as a family is that there are so many options for where to go and what to do. And when your goal is to give the perfect gift, choosing a trip that will go down in the books as one of the best family memories ever is a good place to start. 

Let a Europe cruise immerse your family in gorgeous scenery, amazing food and rich history. A ski trip would be a fun way for everyone to enjoy the great outdoors together. Imagine your whole family enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of a tropical island, maybe snorkeling or even giving parasailing a try. 

2. Family Heirloom Pieces 

One of the nicest gifts you can give anyone is something that comes from the heart. Investing in a personalized, one-of-a-kind piece for your family will add a wonderful touch to your home for years to come. What’s great about this is that there are so many directions you can take it.  

Depending on your home decor style, you may find that some types of art are better suited than others. Getting creative and making a thoughtful decision will ensure you choose the best piece for your family.

A wrought iron or hand-carved wooden namesake sign could grace your front entrance for years, bringing a sense of home each time you pass it by. A family constellation print would not only be beautiful to look at, but a fun activity to do together time after time (try pairing it with a telescope!). There are so many other options for other personalized items, including DIY projects as well. 

3. A Home Improvement Project

Is there something in your home that everyone can agree needs updating? Is there something you’ve always wanted to add to your home but haven’t gotten around to doing? Now’s the perfect time to take action. What better way than to make it a surprise for the rest of your family?

It could be that your kitchen is outdated and cramped, but it’s also the place where your family spends the most time. While a full kitchen renovation is certainly an investment, it’s also something that will pay you back in no time. Or maybe your family has always dreamed of a backyard pool, so you decide to make that a reality. It could also be something like finishing off an area of the basement and creating a game room.

Since home is where your family spends the most time, it only makes sense to do all you can to make it the best possible space for everyone. Presenting it as a gift will make whatever you do that much more special and heartfelt. 

Surprising your family with a gift can be approached in so many different ways. Remember that a gift can be anything — an experience, a material item, or a project of some sort. Spend time thinking about what would best benefit your family and bring the most joy and get ready to give the best gift ever.

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Pakistan – A Wonderful Destination For Adventurous Sports

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Pakistan is famous for its exciting cities, historical sites, hospitality, great cuisines across the world. However, most of the international states are not aware of the fact that it is an excellent destination to enjoy adventurous sports as well as cultural festivities. The variety of adventure sports in Pakistan is enormous. There are a number of adventurous destinations for extracurricular activities in Pakistan, which anybody can travel to. From fishing to river rafting, skiing to camping and jeep safari to mountaineering, Pakistan is gifted with such vibrant geographical landscapes that makes it outstanding tourist destination.

The northern areas of Pakistan are known as hub of Adventure sports and open to tourists and sportsman’s wonderful opportunities. Its rivers falling down from the snowcapped mountains and glaciers are great for water sports like river rafting, canoeing, sailing and kayaking. Horse and Camel safaris are other two exciting activities to enjoy. There are various destinations in northern Pakistan that provide wonderful opportunities for jeep safaris. Some of the destinations that can be visited for jeep safari include Gilgit, Hunza, Shandur, Sust and Skardu. Rivers Chitral, Indus, Gilgit, Swat, Hunza, Kunar and the Neelum offer exciting opportunities for water sports. There are mountains that offer wonderful trekking trails that lead to some beautiful spots.

Likewise, Swat is being called as Switzerland of Pakistan. Pakistan also offers beautiful spots for skiing. Swat’s Malam Jabba is one of the best skiing resorts. If Jeep Safari is what gives one thrill, perhaps there is hardly any destination as exciting as the Northern Areas: hence one should come here without any fear and must enjoy the adventure.  

Mountaineers from all over the world continue to test their minds and bodies by ascending some of toughest terrains in the world. Mountaineering is a highly specialized sport, especially on the 8,000-meter high mountain peaks, five of which are located in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region of Pakistan. These include K-2, Nangaparbat, G-I & II and Broad peak. Besides, 70% of mountain peaks above 7,000 meters are also located in Pakistan. An elite group of mountaineers, some of the best in the world, challenge the limits of what is thought to be humanly possible by attempting every winter to climb these summits.

Pakistan has produced wonderful legends in the field of mountaineering like Nazir Sabir, the first Pakistani to summit Mount Everest; Muhammad Ali Sadpara, the first Pakistani to summit Nanga Parbat in winter; and his son Hasan Sadpara. Muhammad Ali Sadpara has put Pakistan’s mountaineering in limelight at the cost of his own life.

Pakistan also has a lot of scope in the field of rock climbing. Unlike mountaineering, rock climbing is not an exciting sport in popular perception. Rock climbing is probably one of the toughest and most dangerous forms of extreme sports.

The season, which attracts mountain climbers from all parts of the world, creates a hoard of opportunities for mountaineering-related businesses in the country and helps Pakistan generate millions in lieu of taxes and fees every year. The life of common people is very tough in Northern areas of Pakistan due to extreme weather conditions specially winter. Pakistan govt has built various lodges along the whole routes, and has offered more services, this step has enticed more people to come. Visa process for foreigners to get tourist visas for Pakistan has been made very easy.

There are few suggestions which can help in bringing more charm in these games. International federations must contribute funds which assist in making the life of public better in the northern areas of Pakistan. The doors of President and PM houses should be opened for national and international mountaineers who summit main peaks and those success stories should be highlighted on international media as well. This adventure sport should be made top priority by government. There is a need to establish an international level professional mountaineering school and a trained rescue team of experts.

The Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) should be given more strength. The ACP needs thorough professionals on board to make it more vibrant organization to promote and mainstream mountaineering in Pakistan and attract foreign mountaineers and trekkers. Government and state departments should make more focus to check the bottlenecks and facilitate the trekking expeditions. It is suggested that Mountaineers and High Altitude Porters (HAPs) have no insurance schemes, proper training and sponsorships, they should be facilitated at all levels.  

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