About CHP

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

More Historic Beijing Buildings Endangered?

The ongoing loss of old courtyard houses as developers continue to demolish hutong neighborhoods in the Old City of Beijing is well known. But we at CHP are also vigilant about the loss of more recent buildings that have architectural distinctiveness and are also part of Beijing’s heritage.
 
Recently we have discovered plans to demolish two Beijing landmarks, well known to anyone who has driven down Chang An Avenue, that date from the 1950s.  These are the two original Foreign Trade Department buildings designed by Xu Zhong and constructed in 1954. They are situated not far from Tian An Men Square on the south side of Chang An Avenue, opposite the Oriental Plaza.
 
In the early years after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, a group of architects sought to embody the artistry and style of the Chinese people in their contemporary architectural designs.  The result was the construction of buildings that incorporated  regional and traditional elements. The two most outstanding examples of this effort dating from the 1950s are Shanghai’s Memorial Hall of Lu Xun and the Foreign Trade Bureau of Beijing.

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Preserving Dai Culture for Posterity

In a broad valley in a remote corner of southern Yunnan Province, in the District of Meng Lian, twenty kilometers from the Burmese border, lie a number of Dai villages.  The Dai of these villages are heirs to a culture dating back hundreds of years to a time when the Dai formed a powerful kingdom dominating southern Yunnan Province and contiguous areas of Burma.  Over the centuries this kingdom broke up into a number of small Dai states, each headed by a jaofa, or Lord of Heaven.  These states gradually fell under the suzerainty of Beijing dynastic rule, and the Chinese emperor gave each jaofa the title of tusi, or local administrator, in the Chinese system of governing outlying ethnic minority areas.
Despite Chinese suzerainty, the Dai in these areas continued to live as their ancestors had, with Dai culture very much intact, with almost no influence from Han culture. All this changed after 1949, when the new Chinese government asserted strong administrative control over the Dai and other minority groups in Yunnan and elsewhere around the nation. From the 50s through the early 70s, aspects of traditional Dai culture came under attack as they were perceived to be “feudal”.  Today, in addition to the cultural disruption which occurred during those ideologically driven decades, the continuity of Dai culture is threatened by the same modernizing influences that are bringing about change in all traditional Asian cultures, and also by the economic and social attractiveness of China’s dominant Han culture.

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Volunteers Looking After the Wall

In a remote corner of the Funing District of Hebei Province, near the Liaoning border, lies the village of Dong Jia Kou, home to 122 families. Six hundred years ago, in the Ming Dynasty, the Great Wall was constructed close to this village. Four hundred years ago, the famous Ming Dynasty General Qi Jiguang ordered the strengthening of this section of the Wall. Experts believe that this Dong Jia Kou section of the Wall is a very representative Ming Dynasty section that is in relatively good condition. The Dong Jia Kou villagers believe that the maintenance and protection of this section of the Wall, for several tens of kilometers, has been the work of their ancestors.
 
What follows is the story of one of those villagers, Sun Zhenyuan. This empowering story illustrates how CHP can use a very small amount of money to encourage local people in the countryside to protect cultural relics. Sun, is 56-years-old and in most ways lives a life no different from hundreds of millions of China’s other farmers. He makes a living by cultivating three mu of land, and supplements this by occasionally taking a few local products sell at the markets. But in one respect he is very different from other farmers: his deep reverence for the Great Wall protection efforts of his ancestors has led him to devote all the time he has left over, after producing enough food for his family, to the ongoing task of looking after the Dong Jia Kou section of the Great Wall.

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Sino-Italian Agreement on Prevention of Cultural Heritage Theft

On 20 January, representatives of the Italian and Chinese governments signed a bilateral agreement to prevent the illegal movement, theft and illicit excavation of cultural artifacts.  In this agreement, the two governments highlighted the grave threat that these illegal activities already present to the cultural heritage of mankind. The two countries agreed to commence cooperation on the basis of each country’s laws and their obligations and responsibilities under international treaties.  They also agreed to undertake cooperative, defensive, and forceful measures to counteract illegal activities in the cultural sphere.
 
The 1970 UNESCO Convention and 1995 UNIDROIT Convention  are the basis for the terms of the agreement. The agreement also encourages prompt information exchange, including:
  • specific clauses of the law and policies of relevant departments of the governments of the two countries
  • databases on cultural artifact smuggling suppression
  • the status of issuance of licenses for export of cultural artifacts
  • the status of underground and excavated heritage
  • the status of commerce in cultural artifacts
  • developments in illegal trafficking.
The two countries also stressed:
  •  increasing cooperation
  • raising awareness of museums and other cultural organizations about the harm done by illegal trafficking in cultural antiquities
  • coordinating cultural relations with developing countries
  • implementing cooperation with organizations related to international conventions
  • ending contact with any groups that are engaged in illegal trafficking of antiquities.
As two countries that have made major contributions to human civilization, by signing this agreement China and Italy are demonstrating that they have the same viewpoint and that their cooperation will be highly effective. Many years ago China and the U. S. started to investigate the signing of a similar agreement. But, facing pressure from antique dealers and collectors, American policy makers demonstrated indecision and a lack of responsibility towards the cultural heritage of mankind. We maintain that to get the American government to change their position, first it is necessary that the American public understands the threat that theft, illegal excavation and illegal trafficking pose to the world’s cultural heritage. American cultural institutions should take responsibility in this area.

Friends of Old Beijing: A Few Case Studies on the Old City Redevelopment in Beijing

Speaker: Wang Shiren
Translated by: Wang Gang
Transcribed by: Chen Yu
Date: Saturday, Januray 13, 2006

Introduction:

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Right now, everyone who is concerned about the protection of Old Beijing knows that there are laws and regulations in place. With these laws and regulations, many of us want to know what we can do next to preserve the city. Now, we have spent a lot of time and effort to find an authoritative expert to talk about this problem because we feel that it is a very important issue. The individuals who wrote the Beijing Preservation Policy recommended Mr. Wang Shiren. Mr. Wang Shiren is a very famous and respected expert in this area. I have read a lot about Mr. Wang and concluded two points. First, he is an expert and not a paper pusher. Instead, he directly entered onto the national and municipal stage on the issue of protection of Old Beijing. He works very closely with the government. When the national and municipal governments are deciding on the plan for the protection of the Old City, they consult think tanks. Mr. Wan is an important member of these think tanks. Mr. Wang also has another specialty and it is that he part of some of the most important programs in the protection of Old Beijing. I think that Mr. Wang’s presentation today will be very interesting. Now I wanted to remind you that the protection of the Old City is very complicated and a very broad issue. I think that everyone understands that protecting Old Beijing is ten thousand times harder than protecting the most famous piece of fine china. You can put a piece of fine china in a safe to protect it. Obviously, you cannot do that with Old Beijing. Mr. Wang’s presentation, in a moment, might be in the form of a discussion. I feel that this will be beneficial. Now let’s welcome Mr. Wang.

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