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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

Great Wall Legislation

The Great Wall is perhaps the single greatest international symbol of China. It is a source of tremendous pride for the Chinese people and an important part of the  nation’s cultural heritage.  Yet the Great Wall has suffered great devastation over the years, principally due to four factors:
  1. Engineering projects, such as rail lines, that cross through the Great Wall.
  2. Inappropriate tourism development projects that have wrought destruction on some parts of the Wall.
  3. Chaotic administration of the Great Wall on the part of government authorities.
  4. Raids of the Great Wall by local people for earth, stone and brick to use in their villages and farms.
Additional to these four factors are also the well-meaning but ill-conceived Great Wall restoration projects. In the Beijing area there are several examples of damaging restoration projects of wild sections of the Great Wall.  The work has been done with inferior materials and poor workmanship, creating Great Wall sections that look brand new, have no sense of historical authenticity, and give a misleading impression of the Great Wall to visitors.
To prevent further deterioration and destruction of the Great Wall, the national government has just announced the Great Wall Protection Regulations. For a copy in Chinese, please visit http://www.gov.cn/ziliao/flfg/2006-10/23/content_421000.htm
Although these proposed regulations will not immediately improve the condition of the Great Wall, it stills gives hope for its future. The following are clauses of particular importance to the public and also civil society organizations:
  • Particular organizations and units  are now responsible for the protection of the Great Wall. This allows citizens to report problems, make proposals or recommendations, consult and discuss, and to demand accountability from these organisations concerning the protection of the Great Wall. Although China cannot yet be said to be a country governed by rule of law in the fullest sense of the term, citizens and civil society organizations now have the right to demand performance under the law of officially designated Great Wall protection organizations.
  • The regulations permit the public and civil society organizations to collect donations to establish foundations that protect the Great Wall. Fundraising activities and the management of foundations must conform to the rules and regulations governing civil society.  Granting permission for the establishment of these foundations is a major breakthrough. Operating through these foundations, the public can become directly involved in Great Wall preservation projects.
  • The regulations guarantee the rights of ordinary citizens to become involved in a positive way with Great Wall protection. When citizens discover any destruction, they can report this to responsible organizations, and those organizations are required to respond appropriately by reporting the matter to their superiors. Failure to respond promptly can make the organization subject to penalty. In addition, these organizations can arrange citizen volunteer networks to patrol and look after the Great Wall (and will receive official subsidies for their efforts). This is of particular significance for the farming communities located along the Great Wall.
CHP believes that the government, the people, and civil society organizations all have a duty to protect the Great Wall. CHP intends to cooperate with other organizations and the public to promote the protection of the Great Wall under the provisions of these newly published regulations.

Obliteration of the Distinctive Contour of the Old City of Beijing

On 18 September 2002, the municipal government of Beijing announced    “The Plan for the Protection of the Historical City of Beijing”, which set forth three clear provisions for the preservation of the distinctive contour of the Old City resembling the shape of  the Chinese character “凸”. The regulations stipulate that:
  • a green belt 30 meters wide is to be maintained on the east and west perimeters of the Old City
  • the moat on the north and south perimeters is to be strictly protected, forming a green belt on those sides of the city
  • the towers and the remains of the city walls are to be retained.
The plan emphasizes the special significance of the Old City’s contour as its “凸” shape is one of its most distinctive characteristics. The city walls, gates, moat, inner city and outer city all bear a close connection with the “凸” shape. If those contours are lost, so will most of the cultural significance of the city. Under the continuing onslaught from developers, the city’s “凸” contour is fast becoming its remaining symbol. Once the contours are broken, the Old City will never regain its integrity, the concept of the Old City will be obliterated and discussions about the preservation of the Old City will be redundant. To preserve the Old City of Beijing, its “凸” shape needs to be protected.
After on the ground observations, we have discovered that the contours of the Old City are now being infringed upon in the following ways:
  1. Contempt towards the concept of the 30 meter wide green belt on the east and west sides of the Old City, where the old city wall used to be. Some new buildings, and some recently altered buildings, occupy land that should be part of this green belt. These offending buildings include the Guangda International Center on the inside of West Second Ring Road South Section (see illustration #1) and the Shiji Real Estate Planning Building on the Central Section of East Second Ring Road (see illustration #2). Moreover, some buildings have greenery in front, but its sole purpose is to embellish the entrances to the buildings, not to provide symbolic representation of the old city walls. An example is the Jin Rong Building on the inside of the South Section of West Second Ring Road (see illustration #3).
  2. The building of major traffic arteries has already obscured the clear contours of the Old City at crucial points, such as Dong Bian Men, Xi Bian Men, and Dong Zhi Men. At the present time, the construction of a major thoroughfare in the northwest corner of the Old City has worsened the situation (see illustration #4). Some new construction work, the purpose of which is not clear, has also begun at the Tower of Dong Bian Men, making the future of the wall near the Tower uncertain (see illustration #5).
  3. A few projects that are being flaunted as top international level buildings are illegally occupying land on the inside of the Second Ring Road . They are not only destroying the style and features of the Old City, but are also damaging the smooth contours of the old city. The New Poly Plaza that is being built on the southwest corner of the intersection of East Second Ring Road and Dongsi Shitiao (see illustration #6), is possibly trying to compete in majesty with the old City Wall Towers, but in fact just appears uncouth and overbearing.
  4. Some portions of the moat on the north and south sides of the city are being suitably protected and are beginning to take the form of green belts protecting the Old City (see illustration #7). But the concept of the moat and its green belt defining the entire contours of the Old City contours has yet to materialize. Some sections of the northern moat are extremely narrow (see illustration #8), and others have been blocked by roads (see illustration #9).
The ”凸” shape marked the defensive perimeters of the Old City. Those old perimeters are still there, but encroachment on them is clearly underway. If the intrusions becomes more severe, then the perimeters will collapse. It is the right of every individual to closely inspect and to constructively report all such encroachments on the Old City.

Protection of the Old City of Beijing: Good Plans, No Follow Through

The Old City of Beijing—the Ming and Qing city lying within the remains of the old city wall and moat, which in today’s terms is the area lying within the Second Ring Road, occupying 62.5 square kilometers—is one of the world’s most well-known cultural heritage sites. On 18 September 2002, the municipal government  announced a detailed plan to protect the Old City and started to implement it from 16 October that year. According to the laws on Municipal Planning of the PRC government, these plans have the power of law and must be enforced as such. Unless the plans have gone through the legal amendment process, the contents of the plans may not be altered.
The Old City protection plan is very substantive. A few key points are shown below:
1. The convex-shaped borders of the Old City must be protected. Thirty meters of green space is to be maintained on the inner side of the East and West Second Ring Roads, symbolic of the old city walls that used to be there.
2. The form and colors of all new structures within the Old City must be in harmony with the overall style and features of the Old City. All single and multiple story residences must have sloping roofs. 
3. The first group of Old City Conservation zones (25 zones with a total area of 1038 hectares) must be protected strictly in accordance with the protection plan approved by Beijing City in February 2002. The protection of the second group of Old City Conservation zones (5 zones occupying 249 hectares) will be governed by a protection plan that is to be prepared, approved, and enforced by the city government as quickly as possible. In the Imperial City conservation zone,  structures three stories and higher, and structures not in keeping with the style and features of the Imperial City, will no longer be approved. All existing flat-roof structures within the Imperial City will be converted to sloping roof structures.
4. Height restriction controls will follow three criteria: protected buildings will be controlled under the Cultural Relics Protection Law, buildings within the historical conservation zones will be controlled by the Protection Plan, and the remaining buildings will be managed by the Central Beijing District Detailed Control Plan.
5. All ancient relics within the Old City are to be strictly managed according to the Cultural Relics Protection Law. Such relics include World Heritage sites, national level protected sites, city level protected sites, district level protected sites, and district level “temporarily protected and under investigation” sites.
6. The traditional names of Old City places are to be protected. Traditional names of streets and hutongs can’t be casually changed.
The Protection Plan for the Old City of Beijing has the support of the central government of China, and was put in place on the foundation of public support and expert advice. Whether or not the plan can be strictly implemented determines the fate of the Old City. On 1 May, 2005, “The Regulations for the Protection of the Famous Historical Culture of Beijing” started to be applied. The eighth clause of the regulation states that “Every unit and individual person in Beijing has an obligation to protect the historical Old City of Beijing, and moreover has the right to offer proposals regarding the enactment and implementation of the Protection Plan, to dissuade from, inform on, and bring accusations against any activities destructive of the historical city of Beijing.”
We looked into the actual condition of the Old City and found that the protection work had not been diligently undertaken. Violations of the  regulations include:
*  The 30 meter green zone, symbolizing the old city wall, can scarcely be found.
* There are many buildings not in harmony with the overall form and style of the Old City.
* Forced demolition of old structures under the pretext that they are hazardous structures (there seems no way to stop this sort of activity).
* Some of the new structures seriously violate height restrictions, and there are several excessively tall buildings appearing within the East Second Ring Road.
* Many historical relics are inappropriately occupied and misused, to the extent that their appearance has been totally altered.
* Traditional place names are beginning to disappear, replaced by names expressive of the mentality of the nouveau riche.
The occurrences above that transpired before the protection plans stemmed from stupidity and ignorance, but for those after the regulations were brought in are illegal.  In the future we shall raise and analyze a few detailed examples of the destruction of the Old City, in order to enlist the public in the effective protection of the Old City of Beijing.

China hopes that a “Cultural Heritage Day” will Restore Cultural Self-Confidence

Based on a proposal from several members of the Political Consultative Committee, China is considering establishing a Cultural Heritage Day to change the nation’s attitude towards traditional culture. This is exciting news and we eagerly await the government’s decision, as the lawful establishment of a Cultural Heritage Day needs to be approved by the national government. Unlike other nations, China prefers to choose a well-known traditional festival day, such as Dragon Boat Festival Day, to celebrate a national day like a Cultural Heritage Day. 
During the 60s and 70s, when the “Proletariat Great Cultural Revolution” was unfolding, China’s traditional culture was severely harmed. When the associated feelings ( “Destroy the ‘Four Olds’, root out the remnants of feudalism”) had not yet completely passed, and before the damaged culture had been restored, China embarked on an era of “reformation and opening”. During this era, which began in the late 70s and is still continuing today, Chinese people’s economic level and freedom of thought and speech were all greatly improved. However, one of the terrible consequences of a long period of national isolation, poverty, and dictatorial rule, was that many people developed a negative attitude towards their own cultural traditions. From the 90s, China clearly lost consciousness of its own cultural roots, and cultural self-confidence disappeared. An ever increasing number of Chinese, including the top leadership of the Communist Party, began to express strong dissatisfaction and unease with this state of affairs.
The loss of cultural self-confidence and destruction of cultural heritage are caused by many factors. There are measures to protect cultural heritage and these include educating and training government officials, carrying out lawful cultural heritage work, and tough punishment for corruption. 
The establishment of Cultural Heritage Day will not directly lead to strengthening cultural self-confidence or stopping the destruction of cultural heritage. However, it will be a big step in the right direction.  Because of this, all those who are concerned with cultural heritage protection should be delighted.

Meaning of Our Logo

  1. Our logo is a traditional Chinese latticed window, symbolizing CHP as a window of communication between the general public and cultural protection resources. Through this window, the general public can observe and better understand the current status of Chinese cultural protection efforts, the challenges it faces, as well as solutions for cultural heritage protection.
  2. The logo is comprised of four connected “文 ”(culture) symbols enclosing a circle, which represents our work content as ‘cultural heritage protection’.
  3. CHP’s logo is in the shape of a square, while in the interior four “文” symbols surround a circle, representing the “Round Heaven, Square Earth” concept that dates from ancient times. At the same time, the square symbolizes the sturdy principles of cultural heritage protection laws, while the circular shape symbolizes flexible and innovative tactics to preserve cultural heritage.

         Design Courtesy:Marian Gajdos

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