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Beijing’s Historical Figures’ Former Residences and Cultural Meeting Halls are Equally Important in Contributing to the City’s “World City” Status

When asked about the purpose for Beijing to become a world city, the Secretary of Beijing Municipal Committee Liu Qi replied, “World cities are the political, economic, and cultural centers that are influential to the rest of the world. In this regard, Beijing possesses as abundant resources as current leading world cities like New York City, Tokyo, London, and Paris. To become a world city, Beijing cannot simply imitate its predecessors. Instead, it needs to rely on a more scientific approach and implement a unique ‘Cultural, High-Tech, and Green Beijing’ strategy that would better reflect the true characters of Beijing.”

In becoming a world city, Beijing is applying more cultural heritage preservation efforts, particularly towards the protection of the ancient capital’s Central Axis, stated Mr. Qi at 2011 Beijing Municipality Representative Conference. It will also aim for the Central Axis to earn UNESCO’s World Heritage status.
Established in the Yuan Dynasty and carried forward to the Ming, and the Qing Dynasties, Beijing’s Central Axis was once regarded by China’s Father of Cultural Heritage Preservation Liang Sicheng as the longest and grandest north-south axis in the world. The Axis contributes to Beijing’s one-of-a-kind magnificent urbanization order. The Beijing government’s goal in protecting the Central Axis is to promote the city’s value and its potential in becoming a world city.

We at CHP believe that the ‘Cultural Beijing’ strategy should focus on cherishing both tangible and intangible heritage of the city. This is not only limited to Beijing’s Central Axis but also the large quantity of Beijing hutongs, traditional courtyards, former residences of historical figures, and cultural halls. Because historical figures once lived and worked in these buildings, Beijing now gets to enjoy their unique cultural contributions to the city. Without them, Beijing would be an uninspiring place. Former residences and cultural halls are important landmarks which truly capture the spirit of ‘Cultural Beijing’, and therefore deserve to be protected.

Recently, a news article titled “Liang Qichao’s Formal Residence and other 30 provincial halls To Be Torn Down” was widely shared to the public. This protocol reflects the challenges that former residences of historical figures and cultural halls are currently facing. Whether or not these buildings are to be torn down, the threat has called for public and media’s attention towards cultural heritage protection, and a feeling of regret can be widely felt.

Meanwhile, Xicheng District is planning on creating cultural halls that are ‘low carbon, high-tech, livable, and cultural’. We find this logic slightly difficult to follow: is it feasible to ‘construct’ a cultural hall where the true sense of culture does not exist?
Former residences of historical figures and cultural halls are Beijing’s treasures that are as worthy as the value of the Central Axis. We hope that Beijing authorities will pay attention to the true meaning behind Mr. Liu Qi’s speech, taking into consideration when working towards promoting Beijing as both a world and cultural city – before it is too late.

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