Behind A Hundred Million Archway

One of the poorest counties in China spent 130 million yuan (four yuan equals to one dollar) on the longest memorial archway in the world. 

At the end of August 2015, Lingao county’s memorial archway project was finished with a length of 1.7 kilometre in total. There are 87 individual archways, the highest one being 37.7 metres. 

This project took Lingao two years to finish, with a total floor space of over 96,000 square metres.
In the initial construction plan, this grand project is only the beginning of the development of the Lanjiang Culture Park. 

However, nothing else in the plan has been carried out until today. This long archway seems lonely and meaningless among barren villages. 

Lingao county is located in Hainan province, one of the poorest counties nationwide. The Chinese government gives Lingao an appropriation of millions every year.

In Lingao, most people live up on their farms and lands. The younger generation tends to seek their employment in larger cities. A Normal employee’s average income is only 17,889 yuan per year (about $4,500 per year). 

Over 100,000 farmers struggle to survive in Lingao, with their average income only 3,898 per year (about $980 per year).
It can be hard for the public to believe this project is the best way to spend this amount of money. 

“They spent too much money. Why not give this money to us? Our life is hard,” farmer Yang Zhang said. “They occupied our land too. Land is our root.” 

Also, according to local farmers, they voluntarily gave up part of their land for the memorial archway project, but the government continued to levy their land without any financial compensation. 

The Lingao government claims that they have a reason to invest their money and energy in this memorial archway project. They said it was all for a good future that could potentially benefit everyone. 

“Our plan is to turn this entire park into a tourism attraction. This memorial archway project is the most important part. We wish to apply Guinness World Records for our project. It is going to be the longest archway in the world,” said Bo Li, the subprefect of Lingao county. 

However, if you dig deeper into this project, you will find many flaws in the original design and the construction process. The foundation of this project was shaky from the beginning. 

For instance, traditional Chinese memorial archways were all built vertically, but Lingao’s archways were built horizontally. The purposes of memorial archways include commendation of loyalty, chastity and contribution – Lingao’s archways belong to none of them. 

The government explained they want to use this memorial archway to display couplets and calligraphy, two important aspects of Lingao’s traditional culture. But instead of inviting professional calligraphers from different provinces, the couplets on most of the archways are written by governors of Lingao. 

Ironically, most of these governors were put behind bars recently, because of corruption. It puts these archways in a really awkward position, because no community wants prisoners to represent their culture. They don’t want future generations to be educated by these negative examples. 

Another mistake was made on one of the main archways. Four words in one phrase were written in two different fonts. It is very confusing, and people have to guess what the phrase says. 

Among these archways, there are also many duplications. Artistically, they are not exquisitely designed and not carefully engraved. It might be the longest memorial archway, but certainly it is not the one with the highest standard of quality. 

Li reinforced that this project was approved by the local and provincial governments as well as congressional representatives. This project is legal. 

The value of this memorial archway project still needs the public to examine and weigh. Time will tell people if this is worth it or not. It is not wrong to develop a cultural industry, but first, the government needs to know what culture is and what industry means to the community. 

Is it smart to spend a huge amount of money on a low-quality and unreliable project? Those people who are still suffering from poverty all have an answer in their hearts. 

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