Page last updated at 15:06 GMT, Monday, 18 January 2010

China to save its oldest cliff Buddha from collapse

A Buddha statue carved from the cliffs at Yungang, near Datong in Shanxi province, similar to the Mengshan Buddha - file photo
The Mengshan Buddha is similiar to this one at Yungang, also in Shanxi

China's oldest cliff-carved Buddha statue is to be saved from collapse, with a $10.8m (£6.6m) facelift, a state-run news agency has reported.

Found by a farmer in 2005, the 1,459-year-old statue was carved on Meng Mountain near Taiyuan, Shanxi province.

But the huge form was now in danger of collapsing into abandoned coal mines, Xinhua news agency said.

Seven coal mines in the area had been closed in 2007 to protect the ancient stone statue, Xinhua said.

Photos of the statue that tourists have posted on websites show the massive form nestled on a steep, wooded hillside.

China's Ministry of Land Resources said the mountain slopes would now be stabilised and cracks on the statue sealed.

Shanxi province produced almost a quarter of China's coal, Xinhua said. But the industry has caused major environmental damage.

People in the villages around the Buddha statue now hoped to attract more tourists to the site, an official in Taiyuan said.

Shanxi province is also home to the cliff Buddhas at Yungang, outside the city of Datong, another major coal-mining centre.

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