On Ruins (Wucheng Temple, Jiji)

I would like to know why the ruins of Wucheng Temple have been left as they are, in one askew heap of broken glass, twisted metal, and shattered ornamentation.

Is it for lack of funds? Probably not. A new temple has already been built in front of the ruins, and it looks very majestic.

Is it because tourists visit Jiji to see the ruins? Maybe. There’s not a whole lot going on for tourists in the area, and the covered market on site suggests that the economic benefits of the ruins have not gone unnoticed.

Is it to provide a poignant memorial to the over 2,416 victims of the 921 Earthquake?  Somehow I doubt it, but regardless of the reason behind  their ongoing presence, this is precisely what the ruins achieve.

It’s not often we allow a state of total destruction to persist, because there’s always that fundamental human impulse telling us to pick up the pieces and start from scratch. To build anew is to assert control over the situation, to respond to an event beyond our individual control, whether it history’s human tide or the shifting of tectonic plates. When it’s all over we get up and build again; it’s what we as humans do.

Yet I would argue that sometimes it’s better to allow the ruins to remain in deference to another human trait: our tendency to be moved by the visual as opposed to the abstract. The ruins of Wucheng Temple are a spectacle; they shock you; they demand your attention; and most of all, they speak directly of the horrors that the people of Jiji and beyond experienced on September 21, 1999. They do so better than any plaque or memorial ever could. And for this I hope that they’re left alone.




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