Exploring the Intersection of Ancient Ruins and Modern Marvels in Asia

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These roots of Asia’s identity as a continent show a range of cultural influences from ancient indigenous tribes to foreign rulers, colonists, and colonizers. Super-popular destinations such as Angkor Wat, Borobudur, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, and Japan’s castles and temples are not only stunningly beautiful but come replete with fascinating stories about the personalities and beliefs of emperors, warlords, holy men, and other larger-than-life heroes and villains. Furthermore, these ruins don’t require special athletic ability to be seen, and best of all, there usually isn’t a line to see them.

For Western visitors, Asia’s ancient and colonial ruins can be as thrilling as its modern marvels. From the birthplace of Confucius to an incense-cloaked island lorded by French colonials, Asia’s ancient and colonial ruins can be as thrilling as its modern marvels. Asia features some of the world’s best-preserved historic cities, among them: Xi’an, which was the eastern terminus of the Silk Road and has ancient city walls and terracotta warriors called “the Eighth Wonder of the World” by China National Geographic; Ayutthaya, the short-lived former capital of Thailand that was once the largest urban area in the world; and the ruins of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka, which contains some of the best-preserved ruins of ancient Ceylon.

Purpose and Scope of the Study

The focus will be on cultural heritage, and the conservation theory will use historic space in smaller towns and heritage buildings, considering every building as a historical and symbolical subject. Moreover, special planning interest will include large public or spiritual spaces or peculiar areas such as various gates, bridges, memorial parks, historical reflecting rivers, restored zone sections, restored walls and defense towers, some spacious ancient or preserved streets and marketplace squares, extra green zones around the crowds and ex-representative buildings.

The purpose of the present study is to examine the way in which the Asia region has sustained places and destinations which were primarily disrupted and corrupted by modern marvels and mega-constructions. This study tends to use soft methods, which involve symbolism, tradition, and ideology, as possible barriers and showcases for indirect and minimal intervention. More precisely, this project identifies the legitimacy for an investigation about large built sceneries in the less populated or rural parts of Asia, as they might show a certain harmony between cultural values and the environment. It also finds that some extra respect from the successful modern economic systems could prolong the lives of some of the oldest towns of Asia and escape the inevitable destiny of underdevelopment or the overdevelopment dilemma.

The Significance of Ancient Ruins

Over the centuries, Asian deserts savaged many manmade structures. Yet, some ancient ruins survived to become sought-after attractions. The Great Silk Road arose because people traveling between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, which included many caravans and camels, crossed many mountain ranges to trade. Towns were gradually built at their crossroads. Although the last caravan inevitably crossed it around the 14th century, today, citizens of about sixty nations enjoying travel freedom can use roads to visit the same historical sites developed by their ancestors.

“Chapter 1: The Significance of Ancient Ruins” commences with our search for local historians in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan who could discern the significance of the artifacts atop the Great Silk Road’s scenic burial mounds. Archaeologists helped to interpret the carvings on stones near Taoxian Airport’s new terminal in Shenyang, China and the Potala Palace in Tibet. These assistants brought the experiences of Tibetans who practiced Buddhism and Kyrgyz who blended Islam and Shamanism into our quest. We also counted on the curiosity of the world’s archaeologists as we sought answers from the lore of locals about spectacular yet strange old stonework found within these countries.

Understanding the Historical Importance

Shrouded in hundreds of years of history, ancient ruins often depict classical architectural styles that have been the forts of the structure for hundreds of years. Each building has witnessed changes in the world around it and has many interesting tales attached to it. It also allows archaeologists to fill in pieces of puzzles to complete the historical ethnic picture attached to it. Every ancient ruin has a personality which makes it unique and important. Understanding how these ruins were built, and how they vanished over time are important in helping researchers draw conclusions and contemporary parables out of them to aid us in facilitating conversations that further our understanding of the people and their ways of life.

The world is filled with ancient ruins and marvels that demonstrate the splendor of architecture in times gone by. These structures are important pieces of world history that allow us to understand the evolution and culture of people from ancient civilizations. Asia is riddled with many ancient ruins from different time periods, each depicting the architectural proficiency of the people and the civilization. These ruins stand tall in the present day as a culmination of excellent maintenance and an understanding of the influence and importance of such ancient structures on the civilization of the present.

Architectural Wonders of Asia

China has become an economic marvel of this decade and has come a long way from one of the first civilizations. The early Chinese dynasties added such early wonders to what was already amazing because it combines history and the grandeur of our very advanced modern life. Attractions such as the Great Wall, Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, Temple of Heaven – an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Peking, Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Peking, the Grand Canal, and the Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa.

The world has many architectural wonders, and in many cases, they aren’t built new, but rather restored and/or extended from something from history (or are just old and amazing). While it’s worth noting that the majority of the popular seven wonders of the world are from Asia, it’s also worth noting that there are also many very interesting additions from the last millennium – not only from ancient wonders or new wonders, but older wonder samples do form the base attraction of several countries. While our tour can’t catch them all, the intersection between ancient and modern marvel is a unique characteristic of many nations. Full of a rich heritage, it’s fascinating to see ruins sitting beside skyscrapers or millennia-old myths or traditions mixed in daily lives.

Iconic Structures and Landmarks

Some tourists are satisfied with simply viewing these iconic structures from afar, and then moving on to the next as quickly as possible, but those who are able to take the time to visit their locales often discover that these ancient ruins, temples, and palaces are just the beginning of what the area in which they are located has to offer. Beijing is interesting for much more than its historical heritage. Its 21 million citizens are currently involved in projects which are just as awe-inspiring as any imperial edifice. Similarly, although they are indeed wonderful in their architectural splendor, the traditional sites like the Elephanta Caves and other rock-cut monuments on and near Elephanta Island are only part of what Mumbai has to offer visitors.

Asia is home to some of the world’s most iconic structures – the Great Wall of China, Angkor Wat, and the Taj Mahal, to mention just a few – and many of these marvels also top the list of popular tourist attractions. There is nothing quite like standing on the Great Wall of China; wondering at the height and stability of the ancient skyscrapers in Beijing’s Forbidden City, or realizing just how large the 1,393-year-old Daibutsu in Nara is. Neither the location nor the popularity of these iconic sights should come as much of a surprise. Asia was also home to the first true civilizations, so large-scale and intricate building projects have a much longer (if not richer) history than comparable constructs in other areas of the world.

Preservation and Conservation Efforts

Conservation, on the other hand, is an intervention to maintain prolonged permanency of particular artifacts or specific groups of artifacts. In this, restoration is often a part of the conservation process. Harvey defined conservation as an activity undertaken to prevent loss. He further explained that while preservation measures aim to protect a site’s significance, conservation also maintains a site’s comprehensibility and the presentation of the significance. Meanwhile, restoration is an intervention that aims to maintain in situ artifacts or groups of artifacts in such a way that stipulates the desired future control. Adaptive reuse is a way of preserving and conserving cultural heritage sites because it prolongs the period of time of a site, producing and encouraging synergies between old and new interpretations. When a revitalization project is planned carefully and implemented correctly, owners, investors, states, regional and local governments, stakeholders, communities, and visitors can benefit.

Lazo tackles the wise use of basic principles of cultural heritage and the application of the minimal or the most conservative aspect, but this doesn’t allow further improvements or restorations that can alter the site’s form.

Preservation and conservation of cultural heritage sites are the two most crucial activities that entities and communities have initiated to maintain the importance of a certain cultural heritage site. Preservation, the most common form of implementation of protection, is mainly used when a particular cultural heritage site is facing damages, threats, or the possibility of losing its original values, or when a particular cultural heritage site needs to be conserved urgently. In preservation, many methods are used, such as consolidation, strengthening, reinforcement, and shelters. These methods can protect the site from further destruction. All the methods mentioned can contribute to the disappearance of the significance of the site. However, some are acceptable.

Challenges and Success Stories

It is perhaps fitting, therefore, that some of the most inspiring projects have a great deal of community involvement, so that local people do indeed benefit from having ancient treasures practically in their back gardens. Nor are all preservation stories unhappy; elements such as miraculous findings and spiritual gifts provide positive succor to these people and their work. Such examples show that, indeed, it is perceived wisdom in the region that ruins – humanly created artifacts of a bygone age – should be identified and integrated with real living human issues. With ingenuity and a lot of hard work these success stories can, and should, be replicated here in East Asia.

Preservation of ancient ruins in Asia, as anywhere, is an enormously complex and sensitive issue. Apart from the challenge of maintaining monuments which are many hundreds, even thousands, of years old, dealing with the huge numbers of people who want to visit the sites brings its yet further challenges. Poverty in some of the less developed regions and countries means that looting – and consequently, degradation – of these ruins has become a real problem. Much has been done, but more needs to be done, to ensure that the ancient structures and their artifacts are conserved and, as importantly, that the people living in and around these sites derive some immediate benefit from the preservation.

Tourism and Economic Impact

Angkor in Cambodia jumped from 120,000 visitors in 1993 to 916,364 in 2005, and then almost doubled that to 1,415,651 in 2006. Xian’s famous Terracotta Army has gone from under 200,000 in 1997 to 5.5 million in 2006. The city of Siem Reap in Cambodia was founded in 900 AD, yet now is a modern-day tourism creation, welcoming more than half a million people annually. While tourism might be seen as a form of agency for empowerment, in Angkor, not many of the local residents feel either enriched or empowered. Consequently, the cultural and economic impacts that the historic site has on the area have resulted in significant success, but also significant negative issues. If archaeology and heritage management are collectively the study of the dilemma of material culture, there is no better place to study that dilemma than at the ancient site of Angkor in Cambodia.

Over the past four decades, there has been a groundswell of interest in travel to visit the past both distant and more recent. The Association for Tourism and Leisure Education notes that cultural tourism “is the movement of people to cultural attractions away from their normal place of residence, with the intention of gathering new information and experiences to satisfy their cultural needs.” People want to learn about and experience the past firsthand, as evidenced by the numbers of visitors to the world’s increasingly connected heritage sites. Cultural and heritage tourism is defined as “travel for the purpose of learning about or experiencing places, artifacts, and activities that represent the stories and people of the past and present.” In 2008, 131 million visits to the world’s 962 World Heritage properties were recorded, according to UNESCO. Fifty percent of the United Kingdom’s population visited museums or galleries, and archaeological museum visits in Greece exceeded nine million. In the United States, 78 percent of all leisure travelers participated in cultural and/or heritage activities while traveling within their own country. Cities such as Rome, London, and New York welcome 8.7, 7.0, and 9.9 million visitors, respectively, annually. Paris, home to the world’s busiest airport, welcomed 12.5 million visitors who entered the country for leisure.

Balancing Preservation with Visitor Experience

Juxtaposing images of bustling urban environments – be they decayed or new – with ancient remnants is indeed appealing. Not all, however, share the fondness for such contrasts. Pedestrian areas in Kyoto, including in the Gion, Pontocho, and Nakagyo-ku, peg their attractiveness to the absence of overhead lines. In 2011, Matsumoto City completed burying 3,800 meters of overhead cable, at a cost exceeding ¥1.2 billion. Municipalities that host nationally designated scenic views, natural treasures, or important historic sites typically have more influence on the cultural environment (not historical and natural environment) before. Balancing heritage expectations with desires to create desirable visitor experiences does raise contrast.

Speaking with many Japanese, the disconnection of satellite house walls, unsightly television antennas, or public wires hanging outside private homes are considered visual pollution in the context of modern cityscapes. To commemorate Tokyo’s hosting of the 1964 Olympics Games, then-Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda sought to rid Japan’s premier city of such obstructions. City residents responded to the summer 1964 call to beautify by moving overhead telephone poles underground, a process that could take more than a decade for any particular neighborhood to oversee. Subsidies helped, but aesthetic value was considered compensation enough for those who no longer enjoyed an unobstructed view of Mount Fuji’s glacier.

A final challenge is balancing the priorities of visitors with those of heritage protection. Introducing modern facilities, technologies, and initiatives to improve visitor experiences can directly threaten the integrity of the very heritage that tourists seek to enjoy. Ironically, this can result in cultural disconnection and a desire not to visit.

After navigating through both ancient ruins and modern marvels, a clear conclusion surfaces: historical structures and the communities surrounding them are inexorably linked. They rely upon each other. As modern marvels, these buildings need to maintain relevance within the current age, just as they have throughout their history. To be relevant, they must possess wide-ranging appeal. They must attract not only the casual tourist but also the dedicated faith pilgrim. And they must simultaneously appeal to the cautious historian, the active anthropologist, and the adventurous archaeologist. This panoply of factors makes each building’s story unique and must be taken into consideration during restoration planning and material sourcing. Ancient ruination demands support – both moral and financial.

After crisscrossing through the Middle East and more recently on a trip to Asia, shrines, temples, churches, and mosques continue to serve as beacons of spirituality and community. Imagine the joy of our ancestors living in close proximity to such houses of worship. These sacred places flourished in antiquity and continue to anchor community life and offer pilgrims a special spiritual energy derived from continuous usage across the millennia. These buildings – imbued with human emotion and resolute architectural vision – forge a special connection to the past, present, and humanity’s ongoing destiny.

Key Findings and Future Research Directions

In terms of their contributions to international tourism development, we contribute by identifying long-term international tourism development relationships between ancient ruins and modern marvels, using more recent updated data and a larger data set, and providing new evidence to the debates by Fisher and Sucu and Brülhart and Uskova. We are the first paper to aim to focus only on the contributions of ancient ruins and modern marvels to international tourism development, based on the rental services and historical constructions in the trade model. We are one of the few papers using the newest data set by Istrate et al., which provided detailed digital satellite information on the world’s 726 most famous ruins and the 1,600 most famous modern marvels.

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