May 27, 2013 (TSR) – A Chinese teenage tourist damaged a 3,500-year-old site in Luxor causing outrage in China and Egypt after photographs taken by an embarrassed Chinese tourist were publicly shared on Chinese social networking service Sina Weibo which showed crudely drawn Chinese characters written over an ancient sandstone panel lined with hieroglyphics.
The tourist carved a graffitti saying “Ding Jinhao was here” while visiting Luxor in Egypt.
The incident comes shortly after China introduced a new law in April which warns against tourists committing uncivilized behavior but does not specify punishments. In addition, resolving the hot air balloon accident in February that killed a total of 19 tourists in Egypt’s Luxor governorate which included nine from China’s Hong Kong as well as four Japanese, three Britons, two Frenchmen and one Egyptian. Deputy Director-General of the Department of Consular Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Qiu Xuejun, who leads the Chinese work panel, told Xinhua then that the Chinese side would cooperate with the Egyptian government to deal with this issue efficiently, which they did.
Chinese social media and newspapers were quick to condemn and identify the offender, and the incident has attracted widespread criticism in China with headlines such as “China’s Tourist Shame.”
“The saddest moment in Egypt, so ashamed I couldn’t bear to show my face,” according to the microblog post posted on Friday night from a Chinese netizen named Shen who quickly stirred up heated discussion. He felt shocked and ashamed for how carelessly his fellow countryman vandalized a historical relic thousands of years old.
Shen further explained to a reporter that he traveled to Egypt and took this picture below when he toured Luxor. “When we saw this, nobody said a thing. At the time, the whole tour group felt especially ashamed. The tour guide too did not want to poke the wound, so he led us away. I saved this picture and posted it on my microblog because I wanted to remind everyone not to take damaging historical relics so lightly. I didn’t know it would spread so quickly.”
“We tried to use tissues to wipe off this shame, but it was very difficult to wipe off, nor could water be used, as this is a 3500-year-old historical relic.”
Internet users hunted down the perpetrator; a 15-year-old boy named Ding Jinhao, a middle-school student from Nanjing and hacked the website of his school, forcing users to click on a sign parodying Ding’s graffiti before entering.
Many netizens uniformly expressed indignation at this, crying out “Ding Jinhao, you’re about to become famous!”
Many social media users in China condemned Ding for damaging the ancient relic and his parents for not educating him properly.
One said: ‘Ding’s uncivilized behavior disgraced Chinese people.’
“Don’t forget, when you go abroad, you represent China!” said another.
Experienced tour guide Mr. Zhang, who has led tours in Egypt multiple times, said damaging and smuggling relics across the border already violates local laws, and one could go to jail if it is caught considered serious.
Shortly after the outrage, Ding Jinhao’s parents, who live in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province, apologized for his behavior on Saturday, asked for forgiveness from the public and issued a statement to a local Chinese media.
“He has realized he made a mistake, and we beg your pardon, please give him a chance to correct his act”, according to his mother.
His father said they felt regretful after news about the case was spread online.
They also said Ding had “cried all night” after learning of the cyberattacks.
“We want to apologize to the people of Egypt and to people across China,” said Ding’s mother to Modern Express, a local newspaper.
According to Chinese bloggers, several tourists attempted to remove the markings themselves, resulting in the white smudge that appears in the photograph above.
It is not yet clear whether the markings can be removed in order to safely restore the temple wall to its original state.
Despite this, the incident remains unreported on Egyptian media and the man responsible was never identified or charged with any criminal offence by Egyptian authorities.
The Ministry of Antiquities has not commented on the damage yet, but according to a source contacted by Egyptian Streets, the Ministry of Antiquities is currently investigating the incident.
Earlier this month a top official said the dire manners and “uncivilised behaviour” of some Chinese tourists overseas were harming the country’s image, as he lamented their poor “quality and breeding”, according to state-run media.
Wang Yang, one of China’s four vice premiers, singled out for condemnation “talking loudly in public places, jay-walking, spitting and wilfully carving characters on items in scenic zones”.
The number of overseas trips made by Chinese tourists is expected to continue to grow, from 83 million today to 130 million in 2015 and 200 million by 2020. To put this growth into perspective, annual tourist departures account for only 4.3 per cent of China’s population, compared to 20 per cent in the US. This will have big implications for global retailers as the Chinese have different motivations for travelling overseas compared to Europeans and Americans. Market research indicates that shopping surpasses sightseeing as the most favoured activity.
The Chinese overtook the Germans to become the world’s top overseas spenders last year, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. In just over a decade, China has moved from near the bottom of the rankings to the very top, a remarkable achievement in a short period of time.
The bad manners of some Chinese tourists, which include spitting and littering, have featured prominently in the media in recent years.
In March 2009, a retired man from Changzhou, Jiangsu province, carved his name on a rock in Taiwan’s Yehliu Geopark, which triggered intense criticism.
In February, a tourist carved his name on a large cauldron in Beijing’s Palace Museum. Failing to find the culprit, one of the museum’s staff posted a picture of the vandalized cauldron online.
Chen Xu, a researcher from the China Tourism Academy, said the Tourism Law, which will take effect in October, will force some Chinese tourists to behave properly at tourist sites, but in the long run the key is to raise awareness of the importance of cultural relics and proper manners.
“Travel agencies and guides should also be responsible for preventing tourists from vandalizing cultural relics,” he said.
Ye Qianrong, a professor of Chinese studies at Tokai University in Japan, said Chinese tourists’ practice of writing their names at tourist sites could date back to the “cultural revolution” (1966-76), when many young students wrote their names in many places.
There are foreign laws which are very strict. If you’re caught, it’s very likely that you’ll be fined, and if it is serious, you may even go to jail. It is imperative to parents and people to practice respect and dignity around the world. Hence, noble virtues.
Ye, who hails from China, said the lack of education for good manners in schools and families is also to blame.
Luxor has frequently been characterized as the “world’s greatest open air museum”, as the ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor stand within the modern city. Immediately opposite, across the River Nile, lie the monuments, temples and tombs on the West Bank Necropolis, which include the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.
Fixing it: My Suggestion to the Egyptian or Chinese Authorities
The “was here” uncivil behavior is a bad habit of many people of ANY ages, not just tourists, and can be from any ethnic group or nationality. So let us not make this as some China bashing because that is not being fair. I know many wealthy who act like ghetto, and very poor people, even homeless who are classy. I have seen Europeans who scribble “was here” all over Europe myself.
In this case, the teenager didn’t consider that doing something like this is seriously damaging historical relics. Psychologically, the boy did not do this intentionally to embarrass anyone, certainly not his own country, but was merely making his “mark”, though crude, because he did see something magnificent. He wanted to be “seen”. I am quite sure anthropologists would side with me on this explanation. It was not malicious, so while I completely understand the indignation, the adults who joined in cyberbullying this young man, his school and his family need to look at themselves and remember how they were when they were children before they throw stones.
Indeed, this reflects badly on the parents. This is not a picture of all China. This is about proper upbringing and teaching of noble virtues and manners, so be sober and compassionate. Let’s not make this as some diplomatic crisis. In fact, I give China’s government credit for even making it a national imperative to tell its people to behave properly overseas. How often do you hear that in the news? It shows the kind of people the Chinese are. They think as family, and that we need to give credit. If they want to “punish” the boy, have him get immersed with ancient teachings, in particular Confucius. Egypt also deserves credit, especially the Supreme Council of Antiquities. I am quite sure they almost got a heart attack over this. But I am quite sure that they have been in this position for a long time and will know what to do. It is very classy of them to not rashly react the way the media has approached this unfortunate incident.
Therefore, I am not going to join in condemning the teenager because his sorrow and regret is enough punishment. If he doesn’t fully understand all of this now, he will when he grows up and it will be a difficult thing to shake off from his conscience. Trust me. I know. I accidentally broke a 5,000-6,000 year old irreplaceable and priceless artifact myself. For someone who highly values ancient artifacts, ancient history and archaeology since I was a child, the memory of the “accident” will never be forgotten, and it took a long time to forgive myself. The little boy will go through the same, though he will have it harder because he is made to feel that the entire world hates him. If he or anyone who knows him reads this article, let him know, though I do not condone his action, I understand. May he learn the lesson and his parents also look at themselves because this is not all the boy’s fault for they could have kept a watchful eye on him and prevented this incident.
On a bigger picture, the incident highlights the lack of security and enforcement of rules that are meant to protect and preserve Egypt’s historic sites.
The Karnak and Luxor Temples as well as the Valley of the Kings are very popular with tourists, but concerns over safety have led to a sharp decline in tourists in recent months.
Shutting it down would pose a big dilemma for Egypt as tourism is a good source of income for their struggling economy. My suggestion for that is that since they have many unemployed youth, perhaps they need to offer some kind of stipend, training them and have them assist in guarding these precious sites.
As to the actual artifact, I will be part of the solution instead of the cyberbully train as that is just a waste of time. I am not an archaeologist, but would like to share what I know and hope it can assist.
Salt weathering processes is what damages many old sandstone reliefs. In particular, the wall reliefs may show salt crystallization at varying levels, in and between grains, and within the cement materials. The change in temperature and relative humidity also play an important role in the salts crystallization and hydration causing several deterioration features such as cracks, powdering, paint and plaster detachment, flaking, discoloration and iron oxides stains.
The Luxor temple was built with sandstone from the Gebel el-Silsila area, which is located in south-western Egypt. This sandstone from the Gebel el-Silsila region is referred to as Nubian Sandstone. This sandstone was used for the construction for monuments in Upper Egypt as well as in the course of past and current restoration works.
If the sandstone consists of mainly of quartz (?-SiO2), with traceable amounts of kaolinite (Al2Si2O5 (OH)4), haematite (?-
Fe2O3), albite (NaAlSi3O8) and oligoclase, all walls contain soluble salts; either dispersed within the porous materials or concentrated locally. The salt crystallization that occur on the surface (that is, efflorescence) or just beneath the surface, is what makes it easy for structural damage, for example, delamination, surface chipping, or disintegration, with consequent loss of detail . This is the very reason how the little boy was able to carve his name very easily.
It is good that Shen’s group didn’t put water because wetting and drying is an inevitable part of the process leading to salt crystallization, which would cause more damage to the stonework. The wetting phase sometimes involves water vapors rather than liquid water . Salts produce destructive effects, in certain conditions; some salts may crystallize or re-crystallize into different hydrates, which occupy a larger space and exert additional pressure, producing cracking, powdering and flaking .
The increase of groundwater level and soil salinity is a huge factor that lead to deterioration of many monuments in the Upper Egypt . The deterioration of different monumental rocks in Egypt is primarily due to water-soluble salts such as gypsum and halite . Generally, when water evaporates salt will deposit on and beneath the wall painting surface, and in the pores between grains . The mechanism of stone deterioration by salt action is attributed to different processes such as crystallization, hydration, mineral dissolution, osmotic pressure and thermal expansion .
Consolidation treatments and other previous restoration with gray Portland cement played an important role as it was the old method of restoration, to the high concentration formation of various salts affecting the wall reliefs and causing disintegration. Moreover, the ancient Egyptians used a fine white plaster based on gypsum and calcite for the construction of the painted wall reliefs like that at Dendera temple. These minerals are being dissolved in water and are recrystallized on the wall relief surface leading to many deterioration forms. Gypsum was detected in very high concentration on the wall reliefs, crystallized at high level of relative humidity and/or presence of water from any source.
The good news is the teenager did not break anything like me. But the other tourists put more damage to it with their smudges. However, the damage is cosmetic and superficial, and can be fixed by good stone masons. Using some compatible repair mortar, this may fix the problem and would mean minimal disruption to the building or structure.
Stone repair mortar is available in different forms but can be broadly classified as follows:
1) Natural stone repair mortar is a combination of natural hydraulic lime, blended sands/aggregates and clean potable water. This can be mixed by the stonemason or specialist on site to suit particular conditions, strengths and colors of stone masonry.
2) Synthetic stone repair mortar is a generally manufactured in a laboratory using a mixture of polymers and aggregrates with a catalysing agent. They are lightweight and extremely fast drying. Where invisible stone repairs are required the mortar can be dyed or stained to match adjacent stone masonry.
The former may not work because of the water mixture. The synthetic one, may be an option to consider.
If the authorities do not want to use stone masons, they can also consider the University of Chicago who has a “Chicago House,” their permanent field mission in Egypt of the University’s Oriental Institute.
Chicago House is the informal name of the Epigraphic Survey of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, the oldest continuously running field expedition in the Middle East. Since 1924, Chicago House teams have documented large portions of the Karnak Temple, the Luxor Temple, several private tombs and all of the reliefs and inscriptions on the Great Temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu.
It was University of Chicago in Summer 1995, through a $135,000 (400,000 Egyptian pounds) grant from Egyptian Antiquities Project (EAP) for their continuing work at the Luxor Temple on the east side of the Nile, who worked on the conservation of the decorated Nubian sandstone blocks from the time of King Tutankhamun.
The stones have also been badly damaged by ground water and by salt which naturally occurs in the local soil. The blocks once formed the upper registers of the stone walls which flank the 60 foot-tall columns in the Colonnade Hall.
In 2007, they also received a grant again for $455,000 (1.36 million Egyptian pounds), from the Egyptian Antiquities Project (EAP) administered by the American Research Center in Egypt based in New York, for a five-year restoration and documentation project of the pharaonic Temple of Amun at Medinet Habu.
Their project is to work on the Temple of Amun, which is located in Luxor in southern Egypt. The carved scenes and hieroglyphic inscriptions on its walls constitute a vast untapped resource of historical, art-historical and religious information about Egypt in the period 1500 B.C. to the 2nd century A.D. As it stands today, this monument was built by the female pharaoh Hatshepsut (ca. 1500 B.C.), and expanded by her successors for 1500 years into the Roman era. The temple was also considered to be sacred because it was associated with the funerary mound in which the group of eight gods of creation were thought to be buried.
Their project, consisted of conservation, documentation and restoration activities is be carried out over a five year period. The conservators were to clean the walls of the temple of dust, soot, grim and bird droppings which obscure many of the scenes. The grant provided them for the partial restoration of the temple, whose condition has badly deteriorated over the last century, mainly from settling of the stone foundations. As the foundation blocks have subsided, the upper courses of the walls have become unstable, and some of the decorated sandstone blocks have cracked. The Chicago team, aided by structural restoration and conservation consultants, restored the walls either by jacking up the Ptolemaic-era walls or by completely dismantling them, then reconstructing the walls on modern concrete footings.
They can give a grant to the University of Chicago or…
China can also send their own specialists who have successfully restored their own artifacts. Both are known for as ancient civilizations, and both should have their own expertise. They can also do the Chinese student interns route that I have suggested as part of cultural exchange, for instance. It is a beneficial public relations for China if they do it because it will show that the Chinese care and civilized just like the other nations. If they need help on this face lift, they can contact me.
There’s my humble suggestion. I have a good hunch that it can be fixed if there is willingness from both China and Egypt for the sake of our civilization’s heritage.
Luxor was the ancient city of Thebes, the great capital of Egypt from the 12th dynasty (1991 BC) and reached its zenith during the New Kingdom, and the glorious city of the god Amon-Ra. The city was regarded in the Ancient Egyptian texts as w3s.t (approximate pronunciation: “Waset”), which meant “city of the sceptre” and also as t3 ip3t (conventionally pronounced as “ta ipet” and meaning “the shrine”) and then, in a later period, the Greeks called it Thebai and the Romans after them Thebae. Thebes was also known as “the city of the 100 gates”, sometimes being called “southern Heliopolis” (‘Iunu-shemaa’ in Ancient Egyptian), to distinguish it from the city of Iunu or Heliopolis, the main place of worship for the god Re in the north. It was also often referred to as niw.t, which simply means “city”, and was one of only three cities in Egypt for which this noun was used (the other two were Memphis and Heliopolis); it was also called niw.t rst, “southern city”, as the southernmost of them.
It was from here that Thutmose III planned his campaigns, Akenaten first contemplated the nature of god and Rameses II set out his ambitious building program. Only Memphis could compare in size and wealth, but Memphis was pillaged of its masonry to build new cities and little remains. Although the mud brick palaces of Thebes have disappeared the stone built temples have survived.
The temple of Luxor is close to the Nile and parallel with the riverbank. King Amenhotep III who reigned 1390-53 BC built this beautiful temple and dedicated it to Amon-Re, king of the gods, his consort Mut, and their son Khons.
This temple has been in almost continuos use as a place of worship right up to the present day. It was completed by Tutankhamun and Horemheb and added to by Ramses II. Towards the rear is a granite shrine dedicated to Alexander the Great.
During the Christian era the temple’s hypostyle hall was converted into a Christian church, and the remains of another Coptic church can be seen to the west.
Then for thousands of years, the temple was buried beneath the streets and houses of the town of Luxor. Eventually the mosque of Sufi Shaykh Yusuf Abu al-Hajjaj was built over it. This mosque was preserved when the temple was uncovered and forms an integral part of the site today.
Lady Michelle-Jennifer Santos is the Chief Visionary Founder, Owner and Publisher of The Santos Republic, designed and geared to educate the 21st Century generation. She is the Principal Chief Tiger of MJS Global Group, an international boutique branded organization creating branded companies worldwide and empowers clients in strategy, image/media, branding, geopolitics, international trade and development, communications, intelligence and security, aerospace, technology, entertainment, wealth management, mining, energy, infrastructure, commodities (gold, diamonds, oil and gas, sugar, cement, edible oils, rice, et al), and capital markets. Lady MJ also serves as a Senior Consulting Advisor for DeMatteo Monness LLC, a specialized agency brokerage with equity trading operations in New York and Boston and a member firm of the NASD and clears trades through Goldman Sachs Execution Clearing LLC.
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