Beijing transforms historical buildings into cultural sites

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Guangfu Temple, a Taoist temple that was built in 1459, had once accommodated residents, restaurants, and bars. After renovations, it opened as a public cultural site on Thursday, and visitors can now go and learn how Beijing became China's capital.

The temple is just one of many cultural heritages in Beijing. However, many had become private homes, stores and eateries, even government offices. Most had also worn down into disrepair. In Xicheng district alone, 165 out of 363 immovable cultural relics-including Guangfu Temple-were deemed by district authorities to be used improperly or bearing safety risks.

In 2016, the district began to implement a major initiative of vacating and protecting historical buildings. It also planned to invest over 10 billion yuan (US$1.45 billion) from 2016 to 2020 for the initiative.

According to Lu Yingchuan, Party secretary of Xicheng district, the district launched 52 projects of vacating and protecting historical buildings, including five projects for the city's Grand Canal and the Central Axis. As of Thursday, 90% of these projects have been completed, and 28 historical buildings have been fully vacated of occupants.

Some of the old buildings were put to other use. Some of the large vacated areas are planned for finance, technology, and cultural and creative industries, while others would be used to plant vegetation, open convenience stores, offer healthcare or cultural services, and set up parking lots.

Lu said the district is planning wisely for the recovered sites, and it is also seeking to cooperate with private capital to explore more possibilities of cultural relics protection and use.

Now, 46 households in the former residence of Shen Jiaben-the father of China's modern legal structure-have been vacated. After renovations, the site has been turned into a museum with the support of the Chinese Supreme Court, exhibiting Chinese traditional legal culture.

Elsewhere in the district, new cultural landmarks such as Beijing Fun and Yanchi Tower have been built. Visitors to Beijing Fun's Chinese lifestyle zone can enjoy the beautiful mixed architectures of Quanyechang Building and Startbucks' flagship store in Beijing. 

"The reservation of the old town and its rejuvenation are both under way, and we are already seeing the benefits," Lu said, adding that the district will next focus on the rest of its projects, and encourage and guide the society to take part in the utilization of historical relics.

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