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Qing Dynasty Treasure Endangered: Appeal to Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Preservation

At the heart of the Old City of Beijing lies the Nanluoguxiang Historical Conservation District, which to this date remains comparatively well preserved, and retains the urban form first laid out in the Yuan Dynasty 700 years ago. And within Nanluoguxiang lies Mao’er Hutong, on which is situated a gem of Qing Dynasty garden design, the Ke Yuan. CHP has learned that Ke Yuan is in imminent threat of demolition.

Maoer Hutong

Interior of Ke Yuan. Credit:www.china.com.cn

Interior of Ke Yuan. Credit:www.china.com.cn



Ke Yuan was laid out in the mid 19th century by a renowned scholar-official, Wen Yu, as a part of his residence on Mao’er Hutong. In the course of his career Wen occupied various key government positions, including Governor of Zhili Province and Minister of Punishments. Wen’s residence consists of five connected courtyards, occupying a total of 10,000 square meters. The layout was both spacious and at the same time meticulously designed. Ke Yuan was the garden portion of the complex, with hills, ponds, bamboo groves, fantastic rocks, winding paths, arbors and pavilions inspired by the famous gardens of Suzhou. 

Among remaining private residences still extant in Beijing today, few can equal Wen’s on Mao’er Hutong. The complex is located at 7-13 Mao’er Hutong, with the Ke Yuan gardens situated at #9. With the exception of the courtyard at #7, all the courtyards and gardens have preserved their original historical configuration and appearance. The present owner of the complex is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but the complex is not presently open to the public.

In 1984 the Beijing City Government declared Ke Yuan a Cultural Protected site, with courtyards located at 7 through 11 as a protected buffer zone. In 2001 the State Council declared Ke Yuan to be a priority Culturally Protected Site. Under Chinese law, the level of protection accorded to Ke Yuan is at the same level as the level of protection accorded to the Forbidden City. Accordingly, Ke Yuan and the adjacent protected courtyards can under no circumstances be demolished or moved, and all repair or restoration work must be properly approved and undertaken in accordance with the principles of cultural conservation.

Unfortunately the courtyard at #13 was not included in the 2001 announcement of the State Council, but since the entire complex lies within the Nanluoguxiang Historical Conservation District, #13 is also protected by the provisions of the Beijing City government’s 2002 Historical Conservation District plan and regulations, and thus is also legally protected from demolition.

If a certain amount of restoration work is carefully undertaken, and the complex is opened to the public, then Ke Yuan and the adjacent courtyards will be one of the finest courtyard houses in Beijing, Mao’er Hutong will be a major attraction of the city, and the city of Beijing will have added to its luster as a cultural capital of world stature.

We are therefore shocked to learn that the owner of the complex, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has submitted an application to the Dong Cheng District government for permission to demolish numbers 9, 11, and 13 Mao’er Hutong, including the Ke Yuan gardens. We are further distressed to learn that the Dong Cheng authorities have approved the request.

Demolition of this historically priceless, and legally protected, Qing Dynasty gem would be reprehensible. The unit responsible for looking after protection of Ke Yuan and the adjacent protected courtyards is the Government Offices Administration of the State Council. We hope that the Government Offices Administration of the State Council, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Dong Cheng District authorities will reverse their decision and scrap the demolition plan.

We call on all who value the preservation for future generations of this gem of Qing Dynasty heritage to contact the three responsible authorities by telephone or in writing to express their opposition to the demolition plan and to support preservation of Ke Yuan.

Contact information:
the Government Offices Administration of the State Council Tel: 010 6603 6447, Address: No.22, Xianmen Street, Beijing, 100017
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tel: 010 6596 1114, Address: No. 2, Chaoyangmen Nandajie, Beijing, 100701
the Dong Cheng District authorities Tel: 010 64047711, Address: No.21, Yuqun Hutong, Beijing, 100010

keyuan

keyuan

Sculpture in Ke Yuan

Sculpture in Ke Yuan

Sitting Room of Ke Yuan

Sitting Room of Ke Yuan

Rooms in the Inner Courtyard of Ke Yuan

Rooms in the Inner Courtyard of Ke Yuan

Hexagonal Pavilion and Corridor of Ke Yuan

Hexagonal Pavilion and Corridor of Ke Yuan

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