Protecting China's old architecture is a race against time





Rapid development and demand from the antiques trade are destroying the last vestiges of ancient wood temples and homes in Shanxi province-buildings that, until now, survived because of their isolation. The former mansions in this northern region of China, a once-prosperous hub along the ancient trading route known as the Silk Road, lie in decay. What the older residents still value -- the terra-cotta roof tiles, latticed doors and courtyards -- are of little interest to their children, who want to sell out for a gleaming new apartment. Windows, doors, beams and roof tiles, torn from structures, make beautiful room dividers and wall hangings in New York lofts and Miami beach houses. The scavengers are circling.

Today, one of the few organizations standing between architectural extinction and salvation is Global Heritage Fund, a California-based nonprofit organization founded in 2001 by Jeff Morgan -- a Silicon Valley scion, and a 16-year veteran of that high-tech world himself -- and archaeological expert Ian Hodder.

Mr. Morgan, 43, switched careers after an old family friend, Steven McCormick, now the president and CEO of Nature Conservancy, suggested a job change. Having just cashed out of his second high-tech start-up, he took the advice to heart, launching this new venture that focuses on restoring endangered world heritage sites. In just four years, the organization has raised more than $5.2 million (plus an additional $4 million in matching funds from local governments) for 10 major sites world-wide, including the ruins of the Champa kingdom of the fourth to 13th centuries in My Son, Vietnam, and the ancient city of Kars, in Eastern Turkey, which dates back to the Ottoman Empire.



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