About CHP

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

Donate to CHP!

Heritage Trail project

Ke Yuan: Conserved or Destroyed?

In a web site message on 19 November, CHP appealed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to not proceed with its plan to demolish Ke Yuan, a superb Qing Dynasty garden complex located in one of the historical protection districts of Old Beijing. (http://en.bjchp.org/?p=953) .
CHP’s appeal was based on the fact that Ke Yuan is a national level cultural protection site, with all the legal protection that goes with that status; that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the legal owner of Ke Yuan, has a legal obligation to properly conserve this historic site; that the government’s announcement of Ke Yuan demolition did not receive any attention from departments that should have been reviewing the plan’s legality and appropriateness; that too many historic sites in Beijing have already been demolished, and we sincerely hope that Ke Yuan does not face the same fate. Our appeal was to:

Cease the Ke Yuan demolition project

Conserve Ke Yuan in accordance with the law and best practices of cultural preservation

Over the course of time open Ke Yuan to public viewing

Thanks to the efforts of a large number of supporters, our appeal elicited official response from several government departments. But we noted that the responses of different departments were not consistent, which set off warning bells. It is our hope that the statement of Qin Gang, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, to a journalist’s question on 25 November, is the most authoritative. Based on a recording of the press conference, Qin Gang’s statement was as follows (translation from the Chinese): “Ke Yuan is a protected site of Beijing city. For the sake of strengthening cultural heritage protection and repair, and the removal of safety threats, with the approval of the Cultural Relics Bureau of the City of Beijing, we confirm that the property will undergo restoration and that subsequent to restoration it will be opened to the public, with benefit to its cultural protection. The Foreign Ministry’s duty is to, strictly in accordance with relevant national regulations, undertake the removal and resettlement of the residents, and to ensure the safety of the construction. At the same time, we must determine the plan for the repair of the cultural site, ensuring that repairs are undertaken in timely fashion.”
The two most important points in Qin Gang’s statement are: first, repairs will be undertaken at Ke Yuan; second, after repairs are completed, Ke Yuan will be open to public viewing. To assist the Foreign Ministry’s Spokesman in maintaining credibility, we take the liberty of setting forth below the principal regulations and standards that the supervising departments, the owner, and the construction units must take into account as the work proceeds:

Within the Ke Yuan protected site (Mao’er Hutong numbers 7-11) , no construction work may be undertaken not related to the preservation of Ke Yuan. If such unrelated construction is contemplated, it must not impact Ke Yuan, and must be forwarded to Beijing City and to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) for approval. As far as we are aware, neither Beijing City nor SACH have received such approval. (Cultural Heritage Protection Law, Article 17)

The repair and conservation of Ke Yuan is the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Prior to repairs being undertaken, application for approval must be made to SACH; once approved, the repairs must be undertaken by a construction organization that possesses a qualification certificate for projects designed to protect cultural relics; the repairs must respect the principle of not changing the original condition of the protected site. As far as we are aware, SACH has not received any application with regard to Ke Yuan. (Cultural Heritage Protection Law, Article 21)

The repair work must minimize impact on the protected site. Any section that is not significantly endangered in the near future, should not be touched other than for routine maintenance. If action must be taken, then take the least invasive action possible. The repair techniques must enable the present condition of the site to be maintained. The cardinal principle to be observed is to do the least damage possible. (Principles of conservation of Chinese antiquities, Article 19)

The repairs undertaken on Ke Yuan must uphold aesthetic standards. The principal aesthetic value of cultural relics lies in their historical authenticity. It is not permitted for the sake of flashiness, or in the pursuit of expansion, to alter the original appearance of the site. (Principles of conservation of Chinese antiquities, Article 23)

Within Ke Yuan, it is not permissible to re-construct earlier buildings that have now disappeared without specific permission. For the small number of structures in Ke Yuan that have indeed now disappeared, permission must be sought from SACH, based on incontrovertible support and carefully considered evidence, to re-construct the structures in their original locations, with clearly visible signs indicating that they are copies of the originals.

It is the position of CHP that whatever is to happen with Ke Yuan must be consistent with the requirements of the Cultural Heritage Protection Law and the Principles of Conservation of Historical Relics. Only in this way will work on Ke Yuan be both legal and enlightened. Only in this way will the credibility of the Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs be respected.
We hope that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will make public the plans it has for the repair and opening to the public of Ke Yuan. What most concerns us now is the question of why the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not, in accordance with legal requirements, submitted an application for review and approval of its plan to the SACH? We await the response of the SACH.

Bloomberg Ke Yuan Report

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google
  • Tumblr
  • TwitThis

Comments are closed.

Copyright © 2017 Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center - All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress · Atahualpa Theme by BytesForAll