XI'AN, July 8 -- Construction of two elevators on China's most preserved ancient wall in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province, has triggered public outcry, forcing operators to halt construction.
Gauze-covered scaffolding for the elevator building still spans the battlement of a section of the 13.74-km long ancient walls dating back to the Ming Dynasty 600 years ago.
Xinhua reporters observed that two battlements on top of the wall were damaged by installation of the scaffolding.
The ancient wall, visited by U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters and mother in March, is one of the city's must-see tourist attractions, enjoying as much popularity as the Museum of Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses.
The administration committee of the ancient walls said in a written reply to Xinhua that the elevators were planned to aid disabled and elderly tourists and as a fast way to reach the top of the wall, which is 12 meters above ground.
The committee said it had reported to the city's cultural relic bureau for the elevator construction project and submitted relevant design charts.
However, the bureau has not given an approval to allow the project to go ahead.
The committee explained that the steel frame structure and scaffolding were erected as the committee is organizing a repair and reinforcement of the South Gate of the ancient city walls, while carrying out some preparation work for the elevator construction.
Many view modern structures such as elevators added to historical sites as eyesores with the potential to damage the relics during construction.
Dong Hua, a resident in Xi'an, said people do not mind climbing some stairs to visit the ancient wall, whose value lies in its sense of history.
Some Chinese media have said that the committee's elevator construction made a bad example by starting construction on a historical site without getting a permit from relic preservation authorities.
"Under the 'camouflage' of developing tourism, many historical relics have been damaged," said a commentary in the Henan Business Daily.
It suggested relic preservation and tourist development departments carry out public consultations and introduce democratic decision making in developing and preserving historical sites.