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Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP) is a small grassroots, legally-registered NGO working to protect cultural heritage across China.

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Heritage Trail project

DO YOU HUTONG? Cultural Heritage Day Special Event

Join the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP) as we celebrate Cultural Heritage Day on Saturday, June 11. To honor this day, we have organized a series of TED style talks on Beijing’s hutongs and Cultural Heritage protection. We will be joined by four experts who will be speaking on these issues - each expert will address one aspect of Beijing’s hutongs (note: the lectures will be held in Chinese). We will also be joined by Juan van Wassenhove, founder of Temple 东景缘 for opening remarks and the screening of the documentary made about the restoration of the temple. More information and registration information here.

Following the event we invite you to join CHP and our volunteers for an informal BBQ dinner at the nearby Courtyard Institute. A separate ticket is needed for dinner – purchase here.

6月11号 event poster

Heritage Trails: Dongsi Jiutiao

Project: Walk the Old City- Beijing Hutong Conservation Status Survey has been running for its first month. Volunteer teams have already surveyed over 300 hutongs, collecting and updating information on the present state of conservation. In conjunction with the survey, Historian Jeremiah Jenne will be highlighting the history behind one hutong from each of Beijing’s 33 heritage zones. His second article is on Dongsi Jiutiao is part of the Dongsi Beisantiao to Batiao Historic Protection Zone.

Approached from either end, Dongsi Jiutiao (东四九条) appears to be a singularly unexceptional, even ugly, hutong. The eastern end, where Dongsi Jiutiao meets Chaoyangmen Beixiaojie, features a few scrubby recycling yards in the shadow of the enormous Xinhua Insurance building. The western approach, where the hutong runs into Dongsi Beidajie, is a mess of construction as another branch of the Rujia Hotel chain rises over the street.


Rujia Hotel

Like its neighbor, Dongsi Batiao, it is under serious threat. On a warm spring morning, construction workers outnumbered local residents on the street two-to-one, and the area has no fewer than five major construction projects currently underway. The steady creep of gentrification is also apparent. In addition to the Maoist kitsch restaurant and bar Red Capital Club, a longtime neighborhood stalwart, there are two other hostels/restaurants open for business. From the looks of several of the sites under construction, it would appear that they may soon face some new competition.

Construction Site on Dongsi Jiutiao

Construction Site on Dongsi Jiutiao

Yet Dongsi Jiutiao was once home to several famous figures and when the visitor leaves the bustling main streets behind, is still an attractive and interesting place for a stroll.

Number 34

Number 34

The rather nondescript yard at #34 was the last residence of one of modern Chinese history’s most famous spies, Kawashima Yoshiko (1908-1948). She was born Aisin-Gioro Xianyu to an elite Manchu family in 1908 but was adopted and raised in Japan by the Japanese nationalist Kawashima Naniwa, who named her Yoshiko. By the 1920s, Yoshiko had returned to China where she became notorious for her behavior and a series of high-profile affairs with powerful men. It was also about this time that Yoshiko began a lifelong habit of dressing, speaking, and wearing her hair like a man. During the War with Japan, Yoshiko identified herself as a Manchu patriot and participated in a number of clandestine operations on behalf of the Japanese and the government of the puppet state of Manchukuo. It probably helped that the ruler of Manchukuo at the time was her cousin, the Emperor Puyi. Her exploits made her famous, but by the time she moved to Dongsi Jiutiao in the early 1940s, she was dealing with depression and drug addiction. She lived as a semi-recluse with her assistant Ogata Hachiro and her four pet monkeys. On October 11, 1945, her seclusion came to a brutal end, when the police barged through her door and dragged Kawashima Yoshiko out of her home. With a bag covering her head, she was hustled into a waiting car and driven a short distance to the Paoju Prison, located just east of Yonghegong. She was put on trial as a collaborator and traitor a month later. In 1948, she was executed in the Paoju Prison yard by a single shot to the back of her skull.

Another famous former resident was Li Shiyao (ca. 1715-1788), although the exact address of his courtyard is not known. He was a descendent of Li Yongfang, the first Ming officer to surrender to the Manchus. As a result of their ancestor’s having turned his coat, the family was given titles of nobility and enrolled in the Chinese Blue Banner. Li Shiyao, the great-great-great grandson of Li Yongfang, held many important posts during the reign of the Emperor Qianlong. During his long career, he was appointed governor-general for Guangdong and Guangxi, Hubei and Hunan, and Yunnan and Guizhou. In the capital, he served terms as President of the Board of Revenue and the Board of Punishments. Li Shiyao had inherited his ancestor’s Earldom and through his own accomplishments had his family promoted to the more prestigious Chinese Bordered Yellow Banner. Li Shiyao’s later career was marred by a series of scandals. He was put on trial and sentenced to death on several occasions, only to have his life spared and his titles restored whenever his services were required by the emperor. While certainly corrupt, he did have the misfortune of serving in an era notorious for crookedness on a grand scale. Li Shiyao also made powerful enemies, notably Heshen, perhaps the most corrupt official in Chinese history, and Heshen’s crony, the Manchu noble Fuk’anggan. He was also known for being haughty and living luxuriously, as well as for being very, very short. Li Shiyao is also famous for being one of the principal architects of the “Canton System,” which regulated all European trade with the Qing Empire starting in 1760 and lasting until the Opium War of 1840. Finally, Dongsi Jiutiao once featured the palace of an Imperial prince. Aisin-Gioro I-Mo, a grandson of the Jiaqing Emperor, had his palace at what is today #69 Dongsi Jiutiao. Unfortunately, in 2000, most of the palace was torn down to build the Dongsi Jiutiao Primary School.


Dongsi Jiutiao Primary School.

In its heyday, the garden was famous for the beauty of its pools, corridors, pavilions and buildings. One contemporary marveled at the garden’s ingenious winding and artful layout. After the fall of the Qing Empire, the palace and garden became the home of banker Feng Gengguang. During that time, the Peking Opera star Mei Lanfang filmed a scene in the garden for 黛玉葬花 daiyu zanghua (Daiyu Burying the Flowers). One other feature of interest along Dongsi Jiutiao are the intricate carvings found on several of the older gates in the lane, most notably at #57.


Carvings at Number 57

Sadly, the pace and scale of construction on Dongsi Jiutiao and Dongsi Batiao threaten to obscure what little of this history is left. In addition to the new hotels, several of the older structures have been torn down to be rebuilt as high-end courtyards for sale or rent. On Dongsi Batiao, workers had ripped down an old courtyard. In its place was a deep pit which spanned north almost to Dongsi Jiutiao. Taking a picture of this elaborate plan for multiple basements spurred two officious looking gentlemen, who had previously been lounging in a nearby doorway, into action suggesting that aspects of this project might not be entirely according to city or district code.


Construction Site on Dongsi Jiutiao

It is hardly the only such project on the street, and the steady erosion of history on Dongsi Jiutiao is another reminder of the need to monitor the preservation status of Beijing’s older neighborhoods.

Heritage Trails: Xiguan Hutong

Project: Walk the Old City- Beijing Hutong Conservation Status Survey has begun! Volunteer teams are currently walking every hutong in the old city, collecting and updating information on the present state of conservation. In conjunction with the survey, Historian Jeremiah Jenne will be highlighting the history behind one hutong from each of Beijing’s 33 heritage zones. His first article is on Xiguan Hutong is part of the North Zhangzizhong Lu Historic Protection Zone.

Xiguan Hutong 细管胡同 is a narrow hutong just west of the bustling shops and restaurants of Dongsi Beidajie, and about 500 meters south of Beixinqiao.  The eastern end is on Dongsi Beidajie and the hutong runs west until it ends, mid-block, at Bei Jianzi (North Scissors) Hutong.

Xiguan Hutong
Xiguan Hutong

Xiguan Hutong also has two narrow subsidiary lanes which run north and south from the main hutong just before the intersection with Bei Jianzi Hutong. The southern spur leads to Baimicang (Rice Storage) Hutong; the northern spur ends at Daxing Hutong. A comparison of maps from the Qianlong, Republican, and PRC eras suggests that the shape of the hutong may have changed slightly over the years.

The name of the hutong has also varied at times and some of its older names hint at former uses. During the Qing era, it was known as the Water Tower (Shuita) and Oil Tower (Youguan) Hutong. A 1948 map of the city lists the western hutong again as “Shuita” but instead of Water Tower 水塔 shuǐtǎ, the characters used were those for Otter  Hutong. The Eastern section, closest to Dongsi Beidajie, was known as Xiguan Hutong.

While a relatively modest hutong, the lane does boast some historic structures along its 400 meters, particularly in the eastern section.

On the southern side of the hutong, about 100 meters from Dongsi Beidajie, is a large building which has just recently (2016) undergone a major renovation. The original structure was one of the branches of the Salvation Army Church in Beijing. The Salvation Army came to China in 1916, with their primary headquarters and church of located on what is today Wangfujing Dajie. The Salvation Army established branches throughout the city, including Beixinqiao. The property was returned to the government in 1952. Until 2015, there was a historical marker posted on the building, but that was removed during the recent renovation.

Branch of the Salvation Army Church
Branch of the Salvation Army Church

A short walk further, at Number 9 on the north side of the Hutong, are two older gates indicating a large courtyard. Originally built for a family named Chi , in 1953, it was purchased by the China Theatre Association on orders from Zhou Enlai and given to Tian Han (1898-1968), an author and playwright perhaps most famous for writing the lyrics to China’s National Anthem, “The March of the Volunteers.”

Born in Hunan in 1898, Tian Han became one of China’s leading dramatists, poets, and translators. Between 1921 and 1949, he wrote dozens of plays and four screenplays. The 1935 film, Children of Troubled Times, written by Tian Han, also contains the first appearance of the “March of the Volunteers.” Originally a poem by Tian Han, it was set to music by Nie Er and became the theme song of the movie.

The song became a popular anthem for the Chinese resistance against the Japanese. The American singer Paul Robeson performed the piece in the 1940s, often as benefits for the China Aid Council and United China Relief. A version of the song also appears in the 1944 propaganda film The Battle of China, directed by Frank Capra. In 1949, a committee was established to decide on a national anthem for the soon-to-declared People’s Republic of China. Painter Xu Beihong nominated “March of the Volunteers,” and on September 27, 1949, the song became the provisional anthem.

In 1953, Tian Han moved his family into Number 9 Xiguan Hutong. Tian Han and his wife, An E, lived in the inner courtyard while Tian Han’s secretary lived in the outer courtyard. Once the couple had settled in their new home, Tian Han brought his mother to Beijing from Hunan to live with them.

It was at Number 9 that Tian Han completed the libretto for The Legend of White Snake (Beishe Zhuan 白蛇传,1958), and the biographical plays Guan Hanqing (), and Xie Yaohuan (謝瑤環).    For many years, he and his family lived a quiet life in their courtyard. Tian Han was fond of gardening, and he planted grapes, gourds, and beans.

Tian Han Gate at 9 Xiguan Hutong
Tian Han Gate at 9 Xiguan Hutong

Unfortunately, their idyllic life came to an end in 1966. That year a People’s Daily article condemned Tian Han’s opera Xie Yaohuan in one of the opening shots of the Cultural Revolution. In December of that year, Party thugs burst into his home on Xiguan Hutong and took away the 68-year-old writer. Imprisoned under harsh conditions for two years, Tian Han died in custody in 1968 of diabetes and other untreated medical conditions. It wasn’t until years later, in the early 1970s, that authorities finally notified Tian Han’s family of his death.

After his arrest, the Party forbid the singing of Tian Han’s words, which made it a little awkward to play the national anthem. For several years, the “East is Red” substituted as the unofficial anthem until instrumental versions began again in the early 1970s. In 1979, Tian Han was posthumously rehabilitated, and the singing of his lyrics resumed.

Unfortunately, the family had already been evicted from their courtyard in the last years of the Cultural Revolution, and the site became a dormitory for workers and staff of the China Theater Association.

In 1986, the courtyards were listed for preservation by Dongcheng District. Today, at least part of the yards are used as residences.

Next to Tian Han’s former home, is Beijing Number 5 High School.  Founded in 1928, the school was completely renovated and rebuilt from 1991-1993. It is considered one of Beijing’s top high schools with several notable alumni. The author Cong Weixi (b. 1933) attended the school in the 1940s. Like Tian Han, Cong Weixi would run afoul of CCP authorities in the post-1949 era. He spent nearly 20 years in prison before publishing his novel The Blood-Stained Magnolia beneath the Wall (daqiang xiade hongyulan下的) which described the brutality of the “Lao Gai”, reeducation through labor camps during the Anti-Rightist Movement and Cultural Revolution. Other alumni include Hu Songhua (b. 1932), a famous singer and contemporary of Cong Weixi, former child actress Jin Ming (b. 1980), and Gyaincain Norbu (b. 1990), who is recognized by the PRC government as the 11th Panchen Lama.

Cuju Moroccan Bar at Number 28 Xiguan Hutong
Cuju Moroccan Bar at Number 28 Xiguan Hutong

Like much of Dongcheng, the area is undergoing a bout of gentrification. The popular Moroccan restaurant and sports bar Cuju is at Number 28 Xiguan Hutong, and the international shop Miss Muesli is located at Number 42. The street remains primarily residential. Behind the unremarkable and relatively new walls and gates are large yards with a mix of established Beijing residents and new arrivals. There are also several apartment buildings dating from the past two decades, some of which are now becoming popular with Beijing’s international residents.

About the Author:

Jeremiah Jenne grew up in Atkinson, NH and is the Executive Director of The Hutong, Beijing’s premier cultural exchange center. In his spare time Jeremiah runs the Chinese history website, Jottings from the Granite Studio.

Project Walk the Old City – Beijing Hutong Conservation Status Survey

Dear Friends of CHP,

We are excited to announce CHP is relaunching our programs in Beijing with an important new project:

Project Walk the Old City – Beijing Hutong Conservation Status Survey

We are building on the foundations of our “Friends of Old Beijing” hutong surveys in 2007 and 2008 with a new community-focused hutong survey. Although there are many experts conducting research on specific areas of the city, there is no up-to-date, comprehensive survey of Beijing’s hutongs.

We want to fix that.

Since CHP’s last survey in 2008, the old city has changed dramatically. In order to update our knowledge about the state of the hutongs, this work needs to be continued as soon as possible.

To complete this project, we need your help! We have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for this project. You can learn more HERE.

As a thank you for donating, rewards include:
- A walking tour of Beijing’s hutongs with local expert Jeremiah Jenne
- One night in Courtyard 7 (a luxurious hutong hotel)
- Dinner at Capital M
- A cooking class with Black Sesame Kitchen

(For English language instructions on how to donate, to donate in USD, or how to pay in cash, please contact rosie@bjchp.org)

Thanks again for your continued support.

Best Wishes,
The CHP Team

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If Dunhuang Mogao Caves Were to Be Developed by a Tourism Investment Company

CHP 2014-12-20

Dunhuang Mogao Caves had been listed in 1961 as one of the first National Level Heritage Protection Sites of China, and in 1987, it has been inscribed on the World Heritage List. When listed as the National Level Heritage Protection Site, it means that Dunhuang Mogao Caves are under full protection of the Chinese heritage law, and when inscribed on the World Heritage List, it means the commitment of the Chinese government to the world on its “full and upmost” effort to protect the Dunhuang Mogao Caves. In 1987, according to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, “Dunhuang Mogao Caves meets all six criteria of the World Cultural Heritage; and the Board of Chairmen urged the Chinese govern to take all necessary measures to protect this cultural estate (murals) from being threatened.”

In fact, the history of how the Dunhuang Mogao Caves were protected in the past is a valuable part of this cultural heritage protection legend already. At the help of many cultural giants and social celebrities, the first institution dedicated to the protection and research of this heritage was established in 1944 on a site not much better than a ruin. It was situated in the midst of a Gobi desert, frequently visited by numerous bandits. Aside from the brief period when it was managed by the “Academia Sinica”, this institution had always been supervised directly by the central government in the first decade since it was established. In 1950’s, this institution was renamed the “Dunhuang Cultural Heritage Research Institute”, and it was supervised by the Gansu Provincial Government. According to the handover agreement signed between the Ministry of Culture and the Gansu Provincial Government, any slight modification on the nature of the work scope of this research institute would have to consult with the Ministry of Culture, and the Ministry of Culture is responsible for providing professional guidance on its work. In 1984, “Dunhuang Cultural Heritage Research Institute” was renamed “Dunhuang Research Institute”.

In the past 70 years, almost every generation of staff of this institution work very hard to protect and research the Mogao Caves, with rich findings and research papers as an outcome. The significance of the Mogao Caves is thus better known in the world, and the staff members’ hardwork deserve our highest respect. Nowadays, the Dunhuang Caves is already an outstanding example of the world cultural heritage protection and a world class academic institution. Nowadays, it is also a very good site for both academic research and tourist sightseeing, balancing very well the needs of “protection” and “development”. Ordinary tourists can fully enjoy the site, and experts can also realize their needs for research.

But, the future of Mogao Caves is not very promising, as it is facing the threat of development by a tourist investment company. According to a tourism development plan compiled by the Peking University Boya Strategy Tourism Planning and Landscape Design Institute, The Master Plan of Dunhuang Mogao Caves – Crescent Moon Spring Tourist Area & Specific Plan of Some Key Spots, Dunhuang Mogao Caves is going to become part of the “Dunhuang Mogao Caves – Crescent Moon Spring Tourist Area”. As a result, the Dunhuang municipal government is going to set up a new entity to take over the management (protection and development) of land, heritage sites, forest and water resources within the tourist area. This newly formed tourist investment company is going to obtain the right of development of the tourist area through paying for a “tourist area resources rental fee”. The Peking University Boya Strategy Tourism Planning and Landscape Design Institute hoped that this tourist area will be able to receive 2,131,300 visitors and realize tourism revenue of RMB496 million by 2017, and 2,734,600 visitors and RMB761 million revenue by 2020.

Simply glancing through this development plan by the Peking University Boya Strategy Tourism Planning and Landscape Design Institute, we may get the false impression that this was only due to the greediness of some evil developers. But we also noticed the newly issued Suggestions on Enhancing the Reform and Development of Tourism Industry by the Gansu Provincial Government. According to this Suggestion, we are astonished to find that this is not just the greediness of the Peking University Boya Strategy Tourism Planning and Landscape Design Institute, it actually demonstrated their confidence. The Suggestion emphasized that the management structure should be “innovative”, and a grand tourist area management committee should be formed, so a “coordinated planning and development” can be achieved; municipal (prefecture) government should establish tourism development companies; grand tourist area construction projects should be implemented, and by 2017, we should establish 8 grand tourist areas including the Mogao Caves – Crescent Moon Spring tourist area. It seems that the Peking University Boya Strategy Tourism Planning and Landscape Design Institute has thoroughly understood the nature of this Suggestion, hence they have come up with this “Grand Tourist Area Plan”.

If Dunhuang Mogao Caves were to be developed by this tourist investment company, the heritage will undoubtedly be destroyed. Inside the caves, there are murals and clay sculptures, scientific instruments monitored the temperatures, humidity and CO2 density. All visitors must follow the guidance of the museum staff so they will enter the caves open to the public in order and leave in order after listening to the guide explanation. Other than those caves in need of restoration, many caves are not open to the public as a cautious preservation measure. Some caves are still facing the threat of water leaking problem and the erosion of sand storm. According to authoritative measurement, the daily visitors of Mogao Caves are no more than 3,000 people. Inside the Mogao Caves, it has all been very carefully and scientifically measured on how to open the caves to the public, how many caves should be opened, how many visitors should be allowed and what kind of routes should be followed. The protection and management of the Mogao Caves should be separated from its tourist development; if we mess them up, it will not be difficult for us to foresee the compromise of its scientific management, and in a result of the destruction of the heritage itself.

If the Dunhuang Mogao Caves were to be developed by the tourist investment company, it is unavoidably to diminish the research capability of the Dunhuang Research Institute. After 70 years of development, Dunhuang Research Institute has already assembled a lot of top scholars, researchers and established the following sub-divisions: the Protection Research Department, the Fine Art Research Department, the Archaeological Research Department, the Archive Research Department, the Ethno & Religion Culture Research Department, the Heritage Digitalization Research Department, the Dunhuang Research Magazine, the Protection, Research & Exhibition Center for Dunhuang Caves Cultural Relics, the Dunhuang Studies Information Center, the Dunhuang Mogao Caves Digitalization Exhibition Center, the Yulin Caves Heritage Protection Institute, the West Thousand Buddha Cave Research Institute. All the scholars and researchers base their study on caves, murals and sculptures, and they have also applied their research to the protection, development and management of these caves, murals and sculptures. But if we separate the rights of research and protection from its management, we may very likely to cause trouble for our scholars and researchers, so they won’t be able to study as they wish. In turn, their research results will be difficult to be applied to the protection and management of the heritage. Without accessing these heritage, how could these scholars can bear with living in the Gobi deserts? It won’t be difficult for them to get a better job somewhere else in the east coast metropolitans.

Although the tragedy has not begun, and the development of the tourist investment company has not started, CHP truly believe that we should try our best to stop this idea from growing when it is still in the womb, and the best way is to encourage a public participatory approach to this matter. In the end, the Dunhuang Mogao Caves are too fragile, and we can’t allow it to be “experimented”. There are simply too many lessons of how heritage sites were destroyed by tourist investment companies.

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