Posted by Joel Martinsen on Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 2:20 PM
Distress rejuvenates a nation
On 23 May, Premier Wen Jiabao visited the Beichuan Middle School at its temporary location on the grounds of a training center belonging to electronics manufacturer Changhong.
As part of his address to a class of seniors at the school, the premier wrote "distress rejuvenates a nation" (多难兴邦) on the chalkboard, pointing out that despite all of the hardship that the Wenchuan earthquake had brought to the students, their families, and the people of Sichuan, it wasn't the end of the world.
Wen's words were so encouraging that no one could bear to erase them.
Now the school is trying to find a way to preserve those four chalk characters as historical relics to inspire future generations. Below is a translation of a Chengdu Business News story on the preservation effort. Guo Guangdong, an editor at Southern Weekly, reposted the story on his blog, introducing it with a comment from a netizen: "One pair of eyes is fixed on the people of the disaster area, while other eyes are all fixed on one man."
Wen Jiabao's Inscription at Beichuan Middle School to be Preservedby Chen Baocheng / CBN
Yesterday [5-25] at noon, this reporter arrived at Beichuan Middle School's temporary location at the campus of the Sichuan Changhong Training Center. It was during the midday rest time, and most of the students were resting in the tents outside the classrooms. Against the left-hand wall of the school lay the school name plate, which the students had risked their lives to rescue from the old Beichuan Middle School. Premier Wen had encouraged the students and faculty to "Lift up your heads and straighten your backs to advance into a bright future," a slogan that had been copied overnight onto a banner that now hung on the outside wall of the classroom building.
Chalk under glass
There were only a dozen or so students in the senior class 1 classroom. Some of them were resting with their heads down, while others were studying quietly. On the blackboard were the four characters that the premier had written: "Distress rejuvenates a nation." Outside the classroom, members of the Mianyang Museum's 5-12 Relief Data Collection Team were discussing with Beichuan Middle School principal Liu Yuchun how best to preserve those four characters, which had brought such confidence, courage, and strength to the people in the disaster area.
"We can't bear to erase them, but we don't know how to preserve those four weighty characters!" Principal Liu told the reporter that the premier had written "distress rejuventates a nation" in chalk on the blackboard, but because class after class of teachers and students couldn't bear to erase it, they just erased the other writing.
"Those characters brought us strength. We keep them in our hearts," one freshman student told the reporter. "It'd be great if we could preserve that piece of blackboard forever." Lots of students and teachers at Beichuan Middle School supported this idea.
"We'll first take temporary protective measures, and then we'll consider how to preserve it long-term." Wang Xijian, head of the Mianyang Cultural Relics Bureau, said. Wang said that after inspecting the scene, workers would take protective steps in light of the physical properties of the blackboard and come up with a specific protection plan. As of 6 pm yesterday, the four characters had been covered in plexiglass so that normal classes would not be affected, yet students could still see the premier's writing whenever they looked up. Xu Cuirong, a Data Collection Team member, told the reporter that it would have been even more historically valuable if the rest of the contents of the blackboard had been preserved as well.
Liu Haizhong, head of Corporate Culture at the Changhong Group, told the reporter over the phone that the blackboard would most certainly not be damaged, and that the four characters "distress rejuvenates a nation" had already been photographed. At present, at the request of the faculty and students of Beichuan Middle School, Changhong was manufacturing bookmarks and cards bearing the four characters as written by Premier Wen; these would be given to each student at the school, and at that time, a placard with the four characters would be hung up in every classroom.
Zhu Xiaonan, head of the Heritage Preservation Department at the provincial Cultural Relics Bureau, told the reporter that Premier Wen's chalkboard inscription, "distress rejuvenates a nation," conveyed hope and inspiration and was an important memento of the earthquake relief effort for the entire populace.
As for how it should be preserved, Zhu said that the Mianyang Cultural Relics bureau would respect the school's wishes if it desired to keep it at the school. However, because the inscription was made in chalk on a blackboard, the Cultural Relics Bureau would implement technical preservation measures first, regardless of whether it remained at the school or was sent to a museum to be set up after the disaster.
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