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

MD Staff

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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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10 Reasons to Fall in Love with Athens

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Athens has hit a new stride thanks to a glorious revival in art, food and architecture that has been underway for the last decade. Here, the concierge team at Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens offers are ten reasons to fall in love with this flourishing metropolis.

An Epic Heritage: The Parthenon is visible from almost every street corner in central Athens and must be seen up close to appreciate just how imposing these famous and majestic columns are. Fast forward a few millennia and you will find yourself at the Panathenaic Stadium, also made entirely of marble and the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.

A City by the Sea: Bon vivants know that you can experience almost everything the Greek islands have to offer in Athens. With some of the most beautiful beaches found along a 31 mile (50 kilometre) coastline, you can enjoy life just as the ancients did, with fresh seafood all year round, while swimming in the crystal blue waters of the Aegean Sea for the majority of the year.

Music and Theatre Beneath the Acropolis: From majestic ballets and arias to ancient Greek tragedies, witnessing a performance at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (June–October) is something you’ll unlikely forget. Despite being nearly 2,000 years old, the theatre is heralded for its exemplary acoustics.

Temple of Poseidon: Erected in the middle of the 5th century BC and located at the end of the Sounion peninsula, this ancient temple was built to honour Poseidon, god of the sea. A sunset here is one of the most magical in Greece, blanketed by vivid reds and oranges.

Evzones: Rain, hail or shine, the Greek Presidential Guards or Evzones march towards Hellenic Parliament every Sunday morning in a spectacular ceremonial parade that has become synonymous with Athens.

Wines of Athens: As a city surrounded by small historical vineyards, Attica is the largest wine region in Greece, touting talented winemakers who are producing award-winning wines using the indigenous savatiano grape.

An Athenian Way of Life: The weekly farmers markets or laiki agora are an inherent part of Athenian society. Setting up in neighbourhoods all around the city, these food markets allow locals to stock up on fresh produce while socialising within their community. The largest, known as the Varvakeios Markets in downtown Athens, operates daily and offers seasonal harvests and local delicacies.

Byzantine Churches: For anyone that appreciates beauty, the churches in Athens are among the most special in Greece, hailing from the Byzantine era and defined by their tall domes with arched windows. The Church of Panagia Kapnikarea is one of the oldest in Athens, built around 1050 AD. All are welcome to enter and appreciate the rare frescos and beautiful iconography inside.

Art and Culture go hand in hand in Athens beginning with the Acropolis Museum. With floor to ceiling windows overlooking the ancient city, thousands of sculptures and artefacts found around the Acropolis are displayed and bathed in natural light. At the Museum of Cycladic Art, a stunning collection of Cycladic figurines and ceramics from the 3rd millennium BC can be seen. Over at the National Archaeological Museum, a treasure trove of antiquities await including the gold mask of Agamemnon and the Antikythera Mechanism.

Athens’ New Agora: Athenians received a contemporary agora at the newly opened Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. The Agora, emblematic of the central gathering spaces in ancient Greece, upholds this tradition with regular events held throughout the year. The entire building is a significant addition to modern day Athens and an architectural feat by architect Renzo Piano.

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Hangzhou: Let the Beauty of West Lake Float Your Boat

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From its rich history and healthy cuisine to Longjing tea and silk products, Hangzhou has a lot to be proud of, but all its myriad wonders fade in comparison to West Lake, the stunning crown jewel of the city. Beloved by locals and visitors for centuries, West Lake has been a muse to poets and painters alike as well as a favourite imperial retreat for ancient royals. The cycle of seasons gives it an ever-changing look, yet whether in the exuberant bloom of summer or the frosty winds of winter, this watery gem remains a timeless beauty, never ceasing to amaze. In 2011, the West Lake Cultural Landscape was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, acknowledged for being not only the quintessence of Hangzhou’s classic charm, but also a major carrier of the city’s cultural and historical legacy.

While there are countless ways to appreciate West Lake, when it comes to fully revelling in its bewitching allure, nothing compares to a good old fashioned boat ride. After all, it was the preferred way of world’s most famous traveller, Marco Polo, who declared that “a voyage on this lake offers more refreshment and delectation than any other experience on earth.” So why not join one of the many barges skimming the surface of the lake as soon as you arrive in town? And better yet, make it your grand entrance to your hotel? At Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake, we have designed an extraordinary check-in experience that guarantees to float your boat.

Upon your arrival, the Hotel limo will pick you up from the airport or train stations and take you straight to the West Lake Pier. There, get on board a petite, traditional Chinese style wooden boat, and rest is total relaxation. Slowly cruising through the willow-fringed waters, you will be treated with a panoramic view of the scenic landscape while the modern city hustle and bustle melts away in a fresh pot of Longjing tea. Don’t miss the chance to learn about local legends from your boatman, who will tell you all about the folklore of West Lake. Before you know it, the check-in process is underway and the boat has reached the hotel pier, where a welcome tea ceremony marks a perfect start of your stay with us. If once isn’t enough, no worries—you are most welcome to come back for more. Simply pick a fine day and bring a bottle of bubbly to the Hotel pier, and we will arrange a boat that takes you into the peaceful embrace of West Lake.

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Welcome to Boston’s Newest Destination for Innovative Meetings & Events

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Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street, Boston is located within the brand new, 61-storey skyscraper in Boston’s Back Bay neighbourhood and offers more than 10,000 square feet (930 square metres) of total event space. The newest in the Four Seasons family of hotels and resorts for meetings and events is ideally located in the heart of the Back Bay, home to Boston’s best shopping and dining.

Planners of high profile meetings, breakout sessions or private dining events have the option to choose from two ballrooms on level 3, each with adjoining foyers, and five additional event rooms on level 6. Floor-to-ceiling windows create beautiful, sunlit rooms that will provide a gorgeous backdrop to any event, with two meeting spaces featuring unique outdoor areas with sweeping city views for a refreshing break.

“It is our goal to ensure every event experience is one of unparalleled sophistication and quality that define the Four Seasons experience,” says Reed Kandalaft, General Manager. “Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street, Boston is scheduled to open in spring 2019 and we are so excited to show off this gorgeous space to all event planners, local and national, corporate and social.”

Created by legendary architect Harry Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed, the new Four Seasons is a uniquely shaped soft triangle, a thin glass spire of soaring height in the Back Bay. As a result, the function spaces are one-of-a-kind, offer modern design inspired by contemporary, leading edge style. Interior designer Bill Rooney created an elegant and warm atmosphere with the use of cream-coloured walls, muted grey palette and a hint of metallic.

Next generation technology in all meeting space includes Xfinity Wi-Fi along with Comcast X1 Platform, audiovisual services and technical support from PSAV. All event spaces have easy elevator access for event guests.

The Four Seasons team will enhance every event moment and will work closely with planners and hosts to create a dynamic itinerary including time for relaxation in the Hotel’s spa featuring a 64 foot (19.5 metre) curved indoor pool and complete fitness centre, and unforgettable dining at ZUMA, the world-renowned Japanese izakaya.

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