The Importance of Preserving Cultural Heritage

I am currently reading The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, which is recognised as one of the essential classics of modern Russian literature.

This led me to think about two of my favourite books of all time — Lolita and Anna Karenina, by Vladimir Nabokov and Leo Tolstoy respectively.

I read these two books when I was in my early twenties (I read the second one while recovering from a massive wisdom teeth operation that I thought I would not survive).

Reading the material made me respect the cultural heritage of Russia — that their citizens produced such profound and renowned works of art/literature earned my everlasting admiration, awe, and respect.

Due to my interest in Russia, I was watching a TV documentary on Moscow a few days ago. While Moscow looks very modern, what struck me in the TV programme was that buildings such as Saint Basil’s Cathedral were still standing tall and proud.

Saint Basil’s Cathedral (1555–61) is a magnificent showcase of Renaissance Russian architecture.

The Moscow Metro itself is a lesson in the nation’s history and architecture. For instance, Soviet art can be viewed at Kievskaya Metro Station, one of the original stations built in the 1930s.

Kievskaya Metro Station, Moscow

In other words, buildings and sites that are part of the country’s national and cultural heritage were not demolished, but preserved for future generations.

A quick search for the national monuments of various countries comes up with the following results via Google Images:

1. Sun & Moon Pagodas | Historic Pagodas of China
2. Taj Mahal | Ancient Indian Architecture
3. Punakha Tshechu | History of Bhutan
4. Devils Tower | the first declared US national monument
5. Christ Church, Malacca | Malaysia

The Merlion is a well-known icon of Singapore.

The Merlion at Sentosa

What I noticed on this page titled Sentosa: 10 Years Back, was one of the blog comments:

“Really thankful to have found this post too. Very similar sentiments although I’m an 96-er and probably didn’t see as much of Sentosa’s developments as you. But thank you for capturing my childhood memories with this post. I really miss the old Sentosa…”
~ Nostalgia Girl

A few months ago, I remembered coming across a Yahoo article titled 22 Incredible Before and After Pictures that Reveal the Transformation of Singapore.

The Original Cathay Cinema in 1955
New Cathay

While I enjoyed looking at the before-and-after photos, the comments on the article reveal some very real sentiments that were not reflected in the article’s text.

Here are some of the comments:

(1) “Looks like a showcase of how SG decayed over the years. I saw rustic charms and quality workmanship then but now I see prefabs and get rich quick [schemes]. I will pass.” ~ Charles

(2) “Is this another self-praising about how great the PAP is while omitting the lives, assets they robbed from the people. Getting ready for 2016 election? Example: Anson was demolished after losing election and replaced with hotels. Splashing money on renovation every 5 years followed by price hike. Endless upgrades with ZERO value when lease expires.”
~ Wealthy Assets

(3) “I see the quantity of change, but not the quality of betterment.”
~ Andrew

(4) “Now, it is true that, infrastructure wise, Singapore is way better than 50 years ago. However, the ability to save, the cost of living and the social problems facing today, is in dire need of a reform. Compared to the 80s and 90s, [Singapore] is not as charming.”
~ SashaQ

(5) “Singapore’s ONLY transformation is ‘tear and build‘. And the ONLY thing they can build is CONDO and SHOPPING MALLS.”
~ Dante

The following extract describes the importance of “heritage preservation”:

“Heritage Preservation is the protection and enhancement of buildings, sites, districts, structures, objects, and significant natural features that connect a community to its past. . .preserving the community’s heritage fosters civic pride in the beauty and accomplishments of our past. Protection and enhancement of historic buildings and sites is a necessary component of the social and economic prosperity of a community.”
~ City of La Crosse, WI

It is my hope that “economic prosperity” won’t be the only words that current and future leaders of Singapore will take note of, should they happen to read the above paragraph.

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