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Tian'anmen Square's old slabs up for sale
By Xiao Chen (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-25 05:58

SHANGHAI: At 1,999 yuan (US$247), they cost more than the average slab of paving.

And at just 12 centimetres long they are smaller than most too.

But what makes these slabs special is they come from the largest square in the world.

A Shanghai-based company is offering the well-crafted souvenirs made from pieces of Tian'anmen paving stones that were removed during its 1999 facelift when the People's Republic of China marked its 50th anniversary

The carved and polished rectangular pieces are just 9.6 centimetres wide and 2.1 centimetres thick, and are encased in red wooden boxes.

Yang Guizhong, deputy general manager of Shanghai Ju'rongshine Arts and Crafts Co Ltd, which is selling the souvenirs, told China Daily yesterday that the value for such pieces with such cultural significance had been hard to decide.

He expects people to collect them as a souvenir item and his company plans to aggressively market it after Spring Festival.

A number of people and businesses, including local hotels, have already shown an interest, he said.

Li Yongtian, deputy secretary- general of the Association of History of China, was the mastermind behind turning the slabs into souvenirs.

He obtained the pavement tiles after convincing relevant authorities to part with them, according to Yang and media reports.

A total of 18,251 Tian'anmen pavement souvenirs were made by Li, each with a personalized serial number, from 19491001 to 19991001.

A certificate from the Association of History of China ratifying the authenticity of the Tian'anmen pavement souvenir is included in the wooden box.

But Li's dual identities in the association and business have made the certification less credible.

Yang, of Shanghai Ju'rongshine, admitted that it might be a good idea to have another authoritative organization certify the bits of concrete as authentic Tian'anmen Square artefacts.

Officials from the Shanghai Administration of Industry and Commerce went to Yang's company yesterday to take a certificate for further investigation.

Yang Hui, a spokesman of the bureau, said that a decision has not yet been made regarding the authenticity of the product.

A section chief surnamed Zhang from the Shanghai Municipal Committee of Cultural Relics Protection said the pieces were not classed as cultural relics, so they would not be dealing with the authenticity issue.

Construction of Tian'anmen Square started in 1958. In order to make the pavement more attractive, the then Premier Zhou Enlai reportedly visited ethnic areas across China to select pebbles of different colours for the pavement.

Sales of the souvenirs, which started a couple of years ago in Beijing, have been slow, according to Yang, who said that was part of the reason his company was selected to be the Shanghai agent.

(China Daily 01/25/2006 page3)

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