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CHP-UCCA Lecture Series: Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin – The Lowdown

Protecting the Former Residence of Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin – The Power of Public Participation

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Photo by Kongcuo

It was a sweltering hot day in July of 2009 when we heard the shocking news that the former residence of Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin was about to be demolished. Thanks to efforts from many sectors, in November of 2009 the former residence of Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin was named an immovable cultural relic for preservation. Summer is here again and, in what feels like the blink of an eye, almost a year has passed. But, worryingly, the follow-up preservation work for the residence is still yet to begin.

In order to continue to promote the important role that public participation takes in cultural preservation, on 9 May 2010, Beijing CHP held a lecture entitled “Protecting the Former Residence of Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin – The Power of Public Participation” at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art. Cultural protection legal expert, and CHP founder, Mr. He Shuzhong chaired the lecture which included honored guests Xinhua News Agency senior editor, member of the editorial board of “Liaowang” weekly magazine and author of the book “Chengji”, Mr. Wang Jun, CHP volunteers Tanya Ning and Yi Lu, who designed the protection plan for the residence, and Zhang Pei, who represented the volunteers who worked on this project. To open the lecture, Mr. He first explained the topic: “Protecting the Former Residence of Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin – The Power of Public Participation”. As pioneers in the field, Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin made huge contributions to cultural protection in China. Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin lived at the residence, located at No. 24 Beizongbu Hutong, between 1931 and 1937.

For six years, this house was their base as they set out to explore the architectural treasures scattered across China leaving behind invaluable materials for future generations. As such, the preservation of No. 24 Beizongbu Hutong is of very important commemorative value.

People have for a long time thought of cultural heritage protection as the responsibility of the government, but in actuality, aside from the government and the private sector, the public pressure should take on a more important role. During the demolition of the residence, the government and the private sector took on responsibilities that can not be easily evaded, but the power of the public was successful in preventing the demolition.

On one hand, it proved just how powerful public participation is, while on the other hand we must soberly recognize that the preservation of the residence is only half finished and there is still much work to be done. With this in mind, this gathering was organized to continue developing the power of public participation in order to better protect cultural heritage resources.

Following the opening remarks, Wang Jun recounted for the audience Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin’s extensive efforts to protect China’s cultural heritage. For many years Wang Jun has wanted to write a biography on the couple and has done considerable work in putting the records in order.

However, last summer he was extremely saddened to learn that the former residence was to be demolished and wrote many articles appealing to the public and the related government departments to call attention to this matter. PowerPoint Presentations, photos of the couple, satellite photos of Beizongbu Hutong, floor plans of the residence etc. helped the audience understand more clearly the history and current situation of the residence. As the audience viewed each of the shocking photos of the destruction, the mood became very sober.

During the six years that Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin lived in Beizongbu Hutong, they discovered numerous historical relics including the Sui Dynasty Zhaozhou Bridge of Zhou County, Hebei, the Liao Dynasty wooden pagoda of Fogong Temple in Ying County, Shanxi, and Foguang Temple in Wutai, Shanxi. During the years of the Anti-Japanese War and the War of Liberation that followed, the safeguarding of China’s cultural heritage can be directly contributed the preservation list of Chinese cultural heritage that should not be fired at, given to the military by the couple.

Photo by Kongcuo

Photo by Kongcuo

Wang Jun believes that non-governmental organizations are playing an increasingly important role in society and the government attitude has developed from one of opposition to the current cooperative attitude, showing a kind of progress. But the most impressive part of this has been the power of public participation. It is the existence of this power that has meant that the Chinese culture has survived through the ages and left us with such wonderful cultural heritage.

Faced with the demolition of the residence, two volunteers from the architectural department of Tsinghua University developed a protection plan. During the lecture, the volunteers described in detail the plan, emphasizing the public, open and commemorative nature of the plan. They hope that the commemorative museum will, on a low budget, be interactive and fashionable and become a lively community hub. The young architectural experts expressed their views on protecting the old city of Beijing and their visionary energy gave us a glimpse of the hope for and future of cultural heritage protection.

Volunteer photo

Volunteer photo

As part of the efforts to preserve the residence, seven cultural protection volunteers submitted to the Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage an application for the residence to be recognized as a cultural relic. When no result was gained, they submitted an application for administrative review to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage. They gained their support and the residence was determined to be an immovable cultural relic.

Zhang Pei spoke during the lecture on behalf of the volunteers and shared with those present the twist and turns of the lawsuit and made an appeal for more citizens to participate in the protection of cultural heritage. The suit for determination of the former residence of Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin made us all realized that, in many cases, it is public attention and participation in heritage protection, and not professionals and experts, that is most important. Cultural heritage protection requires every single citizen to contribute their energies.

During the question and answer session that followed, everybody actively volunteered their thoughts as part of the vibrant discussion. The audience and the experts exchanged ideas on issues including the significance of the old city, the future development of the city, the enforcement of cultural protection laws and so on, clearly showing the public’s enthusiasm to participate in cultural heritage protection. We are sure that in the future public participation in cultural heritage protection in China will continue to mature and the concept will take root and grow in the hearts of the people.

CHP would like to thank our volunteer translator, Kristen Robinson, for her outstanding translation of this article.

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