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

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Heritage Trail project

In Beijing’s Building Frenzy, Even an ‘Immovable Cultural Relic’ Is Not Safe

New York Times By: Andrew Jacobs [February 3, 2012]

Preservationists in Beijing awoke last weekend to find that the house of the famous architects Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin had been reduced to rubble.

Preservationists in Beijing awoke last weekend to find that the house of the famous architects Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin had been reduced to rubble.

BEIJING — Even in its prime, the house at 24 Beizongbu Hutong was no architectural jewel, just one of countless brick-and-timber courtyard homes that clogged the labyrinthine heart of this ancient imperial capital.

But for seven years in the 1930s, it sheltered one of modern China’s most fabled couples, Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin, Ivy League-educated architects who had returned home to champion the notion that a great nation should hold dear its historic patrimony. It was Mr. Liang, the debonair son from an illustrious family of intellectuals, who urged the victorious Communists to preserve Beijing’s Yuan dynasty grid and its hulking city walls. Mao, the country’s unsentimental leader, thought otherwise.

So when architectural preservationists awoke last weekend to find that the couple’s house had been reduced to rubble, there was a predictable wave of outrage, but also a sense of helplessness that an official “immovable cultural relic” could be so easily dispatched by a government-affiliated real estate company.

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Hougulouyuan Hutong 后鼓楼苑胡同

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Hougulouyuan Hutong is a winding alley running generally north-south. It starts at Gulou East Street in the north, and ends at Qiangulouyuan Hutong to the south. Nanluoguxiang lies to the east, and Di’anmenwai Street to the west.  It is 225 meters in length and average 4 meters in width. The house numbers on one side range from 1 to 27, and from 2 to 40 on the other. During the Xuantong period, it was called Hougulouyuan because that it was adjacent to Qiangulouyuan Hutong.  This name continued to be used after the founding of the Republic of China. In 1965, when the government modified the place names, Daheng Hutong was merged into it, and the entire alley was called “Hougulouyuan Hutong”. After that its name changed several times, until it regained its former name in 1979. The buildings in the Hutong are primarily residential.

Qiushi High School:

According to the Brief Guide of Beijing edited by Yao Zhuxuan, Qiushi High School was in Hougulou Yuan outside Di’anmen.

Qiushi High School was one of the earliest private high schools established in China. The address of the school for boys was No. 202, Gulou East Street, and the school for girls was in No. 18 in Hougulouyuan Hutong, which has now become the 23rd High School in Beijing (No. 152 in Gulou East Street). In the 27th year of the Guangxu Emperor (1901), the school was established by Jiang Wuxing, who was the head of the editors of dynastic history.  Wen Bin, along with Bao Xi, and other editors were collectively called the “Qiushi Academy”.  In the following year, Wen Bin became the headmaster of the school, and changed its name to “The Eight Banners of Jueluo Middle School”.

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Hutong Dilemma

By: Hao Ying, Global Times  March 14, 2011

Two western journalists, annoyed by what they saw as sensational and sloppy reporting about the destruction of Beijing’s old neighborhoods, have shot a series three short videos intended to add nuance to the issue.

The resulting project, A Vanishing World, portrays the dilemmas faced by residents who are reluctant to leave their old single-story courtyard homes, but at the same time crave conveniences such as modern heating, hot water, and indoor toilets.

The filmmakers find:

1. Despite regulations in place to protect the historic neighborhoods, known locally as hutong, the destruction continues.

2. Although people being relocated have a right to complain, there is no board to complain to.

3. Residents don’t have enough money to renovate the overcrowded homes, even though the government is funneling hundreds of millions of yuan into these old neighborhoods.

“The problem is this money is not going to the right places,” said Jonah Kessel, who made the videos along with Kit Gillet.

The measures in place are “kind of for show,” Kessel said. “Make something to appease a public demand, but the reality is not there.”

Better life

Despite these findings, Kessel said that reports characterizing the government’s actions as a simple land-grab are missing an important point: The residents want and deserve a better quality of life. “These people are not feeling the benefits of modernization,” he explains. “They are dealing with problems that are very basic, Heat, Toilets, Emergency vehicle access.”

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Qiangulouyuan Hutong 前鼓楼苑胡同

Qiangulouyuan Hutong


Qiangulouyuan Hutong runs east to west. It starts at Nanluoguxiang in the east, and ends at Nanxiawazi Hutong in the west. It is 261 meters in length, and 6 meters in width. The house numbers on one side ranges from 1 to 19, while on the other side range from 2 to 14. In the Ming Dynasty, it belonged to the Zhaohuijinggong District, and was called Gulao Hutong because it was a home for the elderly (gulao meaning old).  In the Qing Dynasty, it belonged to the Bordered Yellow Banner, and was called Qiangulou yuan , during the Qianlong Period.  During the Xuantong Period, the name was changed to Qiangulouyuan. This name remained for a short period of time after the founding of the PRC.  Afterwards, its name changed several times, until it regained its former name in 1979.  Now the No.8 and No. 9 courtyards are Cultural Heritage Protection Sites, while the others are mostly residences

No.8 and No. 9 Qiangulouyuan Hutong:

These courtyards were built at the end of the Qing Dynasty, and are now private residential buildings.  The residence was divided into three courtyards, oriented from north facing south. Preserved buildings include a Manzi Gate, located in the southeast corner of the courtyard with a Yingshan style roof.  Inside the gate, there is a sheltering wall. The first courtyard features a seven-hall reversely-set wing, and a Yidian Yijuan style Chuihua Gate to the north. Looking at the both sides, you can see that there are patterns in the tile and carving of the characters “Fu” and “Shou.” However, both of characters are now difficult to distinguish. The second yard has five rooms in the north wing with a covered walkway at the front and back of the yard. There are two side rooms attached to the north wing. There are east and west wings of three rooms each on the east and west. A sideroom attaches to each of the rooms at the south. A covered walkway links the rooms in the four directions. All the roofs of the rooms in the second yard are Yingshan style, and there are qiaoti between the pillars in the central bay. In the third yard, there are seven rooms behind the main rooms, of which the roofs are Yingshan style.

The courtyard’s layout is quite precise and the buildings exquisite.  It is a typical medium-sized traditional courtyard in Beijing, and was well protected. This courtyard was announced as a Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Site on March 8th, 2001.

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Heritage Trail Project Update

As the winter chill sets in, our dedicated team of volunteers has nearly finished photographing each hutong in the Nanluoguxiang area as part of Phase 2 of our Heritage Trail Project.  We have also collected historical information from various sources for each hutong in the district and have used the photographs to create “elevations” of the entire length of each hutong.  The goal of this is to have a record of the preservation condition of the hutongs to serve as a benchmark for future preservation efforts.

We are now in the process of developing our first in-depth bilingual brochure/map to the Nanluoguxiang area, detailing historic sights, interesting stories, and other information that will allow visitors and residents to form a deeper connection to Beijing’s hutongs.  We hope to launch this by the spring, and eventually we will be developing in-depth heritage trail guides and an interactive website for several districts in Beijing’s old city.

Visit the Heritage Trail page for the latest updates!

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