North Xisi is a hutong area dating back to the Qing Dynasty that was once home to a large horse and pig market. It also contained many famous buildings, such as the original building of the Xinhua Bookshop in Xisi (now demolished), which was a historic site built in 1894 for the purpose of celebrating Empress Cixi’s 60thh birthday. North Xisi is located in the Xi Si Bei Tou Tiao to Xi Si Bei Ba Tiao Historical and Cultural Preservation Area. This area is granted full legal protection rights.
Pressures on North Xisi
Determined to increase revenue, the Housing and Land Management Center of the Xicheng District Government together with several real estate companies and international design companies launched a plan to split up the area and demolish it for commercial benefits. Launched in 2007 at the New Xisi Bei Project International Invitation exhibition, the plan was introduced as a ‘Regeneration Strategy’.
The New Xisi Project covered exactly the Historical and Cultural Preservation Area of Xisi Bei Tuo Tiao to Ba Tiao, which is located in the northwest section of Old Beijing. The North Xisi Bei revitalization strategy was premised on re-designating the area for commercial use, notably as a luxury goods shopping district, with existing structures substantially altered in line with this new vision. In these designs, remaining traces of Old Beijing’s courtyard houses were gone, and the accompanying hutongs were reborn as pedestrian malls linking luxury stores. In short, the designs had little or nothing in common with the historical and cultural preservation areas and what was being advertised as a ‘revitalization of historical districts’ was not so different from the other development projects seen elsewhere in Beijing.
After extensive research, CHP organized an open forum in late August 2007 and invited scholars, journalists, residents and officials to attend.Invitees to the workshop included Mr Wang Jun, the author of Chengji (City Record), Mr Shi Jiang, the curator for Regeneration Strategy exhibition, and other cultural heritage experts and architects with an interest in this topic. CHP presented an analysis of the proposals in the exhibition within the context of the Conservation Plan and the existing laws on cultural heritage protection. In the seminar, CHP highlighted the inconsistency between the proposal for New Xisi and the current cultural heritage protection laws.
CHP, in cooperation with China Cultural Heritage News and China Construction Report, also published an article This Development Project if Taken Place is Considered an Illegal Project’.
Soon after the media publicised the discussion, the organizing committee of the New Xisi Project was dismissed
CHP articles about North Xisi
- The New Xisi Bei Project International Invitation Exhibition: The Path to Preservation or Destruction? (August 2007)
North Xisi in the media