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China: Ancient Chinese heritage endangered along Yangtze River
Archeologists and historians believe that Chinese culture was born along the banks of the Yangtze River, where recent excavations have uncovered a vast historical record. In Zhongbaodao, a village near Yichang in the Yangtze River valley, for example, archeologists have revealed more than 200 ancient tombs filled with pottery, porcelain, stoneware, and polished tools dating back at least 7,000 years; they also unearthed a 3,000-year-old kiln from the Shang Dynasty. At countless other sites along the river, scores of treasures have emerged, from small, elaborately detailed jade jewelry to massive stone temples such as an intricately carved, four-story stone temple built during the Ming Dynasty in honor of General Khan Fei.

In 1993, the Chinese government simultaneously began the largest archeological expedition ever undertaken in the country and the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. The Three Gorges Dam project on the Yangtze will provide power for industrial development, reducing China's reliance on coal, and protect approximately 10 million people from periodic floods. Scheduled for completion in 2013, the dam, besides submerging cultural heritage, will also force the relocation of likely more than one million people and damage the ecosystem and scenery in the Yangtze's spectacular Three Gorges region. Thousands of archeologists from China and other countries will try to excavate more than 300 square miles of riverbank before the dam's reservoir submerges them; teams will also dismantle and relocate several important temples.

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