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Saving Gulou: Demolition threat to Old Beijing

Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center’s crucial discussion forum on the planned redevelopment of the Drum and Bell Tower neighborhood

Gulou forum poster_eng

The Drum and Bell Tower neighborhood, also known as Gulou among both locals and foreigners living in Beijing, is a unique neighborhood. Gulou has been a lively area since its establishment in the Ming Dynasty. Today, Gulou remains a popular location in Beijing, offering numerous chic shops and coffee bars to local residents and visitors. It is one of the few places left in Beijing that offers an authentic atmosphere truly unique to Beijing.

However, there is currently a demolition threat to the Gulou area. CHP urges everyone to help fight to protect this special neighborhood for future generations to enjoy.

Development and cultural heritage protection Beijing’s eternal dilemma

Hutongs, traditional courtyards, the Drum and Bell Tower, local residents – all of these traditional characteristics make Gulou a classic cultural representation of Old Beijing. To protect the neighborhood’s everlasting charm, Beijing’s local government classified Gulou as a Historical and Cultural Protected Area in 2002.

Despite Gulou’s cultural importance, multiple sources have indicated that a 5 billion RMB budget has been allocated to convert 12.5 hectares of the Drum and Bell Tower area into a ‘Beijing Time Cultural City’ – putting the neighborhood in serious danger.  Such a massive scale development will include large infrastructures like public squares and a museum. As a result, there will be extensive evictions, demolition, and construction in this ancient area, and gone will be the traditional courtyards, hutongs, and local residents.

Once again, Old Beijing is facing another serious threat of demolition. On one side we have well-established laws and regulations that stand to protect Beijing’s history and culture. On the other side, however, there is a 5 billion RMB project waiting to commence.

A discussion forum for concerned Beijingers

How can Beijing protect and develop cultural and historical protected areas in Beijing? Can we find a harmonious path between cultural heritage protection and the cultural creative industry?

CHP knows very well that those of you who love Beijing will all have something you would like to say! Therefore, we ask you to participate in our special discussion forum Saving GulouA better future for the Drum and Bell Tower neighborhood on Saturday, 27 March. This event will be in Chinese. We will exchange opinions on the development of cultural preservation in China, and the future of Gulou.

We hope you will attend and actively participate in our forum. CHP believes that if local residents, media, experts, and creative industry representatives work together, we can help find a brighter future for Gulou.

Date: Saturday 27 March, 2010
Time: 2.30-5.30pm
Venue: Contempio No.4 Zhangwang Hutong | 北京市东城区旧鼓楼大街张旺胡同4号

Language: Chinese

He Shuzhong | CHP Founder and Chairman, cultural heritage legal expert
Wang Jun | Xinhua Senior Reporter, author of Chengji
Bian Lanchun | Architecture professor at Tsinghua University

More speakers to be confirmed.
This event is free. No pre-registration is required.

The Drum and Bell TowerBeijing Time Cultural City’ project Overview (The plan can be updated and changed by the government and project partner at any point.)

I. Project partner

东城国资委下属东方文化资产经营公司 (Dongfang Wenhua Zichan Jingying Company)

II. Physical scope

The development will take place above ground and underground in the area located to the east of Old Gulou Street, to the south of Doufuchi Hutong and Zhangwang Hutong, to the west of Caochang Hutong, and to the north of East Gulou Street and West Gulou Street, as well as a part of the Drum Tower’s southeast area. Total project physical scope, including the Drum and Bell Tower is 12.5 hectares. Please see diagram below for more information.

Gulou project small

III. Opinions

a) The head of the Drum Tower Cultural Relics Protection Department, Mr. Geng Liujun, states that the construction of the ‘Cultural City’ in the Drum and Bell Tower area will help restore the ancient practice of time-telling. He also expresses that the Drum and Bell Tower are national-level cultural relics. Therefore, the use of its surrounding land must be done carefully.

b) According to the China Daily report, ‘Underground city plans not ‘hollow ideas’, the Dongcheng district “will dig and clear out 8 sq km of underground space in the next 20 years to fill with public constructions including shopping malls and subterranean roads”. The space excavated can be as deep as 50m. Experts claim that they are considering the protection of historical relics as part of project planning. However, it is inevitable not to be worried about the present threat that this project has to the area’s old traditional architecture and the numerous cultural relics. In addition, in the China Daily report, current local residents of Beijing’s Old City have expressed their concerns:

  • Liu Yongxin, owner of a clock shop on Dongsi Street, said “When Line 5 was being built, residents felt shaking on the floor almost everyday.”
  • Xue Yan who works near Lama Temple, is also worried about the upcoming construction work. He said: ”The huge space will be hollow. If an earthquake hits, it could be very dangerous because passengers and vehicles may fall into the big holes.”

IV. Relevant links

For more information, please see:


1. The Beijinger: Gulou Area Facing Demolition?

2. China Daily: Underground city plans not ‘hollow’ ideas

1. Beijing Times (Jinghuashibao): 钟鼓楼地区拟建时间文化城地上恢复古风貌地下新修博物

2. Xinhua: 北京钟鼓楼历史风貌区将建成”北京时间”文化景观

3. Beijing News (Xingjingbao): 今年重听“鼓楼钟声

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