After completing its one-year facelift project complete, Guozijian, the only pailou (ancient memorial arch) street in Beijing, welcomed visitors on Cultural Heritage Day on June 14.
This normally peaceful and secluded thoroughfare resounded to the thrilling beat of traditional waist-drum dance at the opening ceremony.
Equal cause for celebration was the opening of two 700-year-old institutions: the Confucius Temple and Imperial College Museum, newly merged after a full three years' renovation.
Guozijian was originally named Chengxian, meaning to become a person of virtue and learning. Many virtuous talents indeed emerged from this very street, now designated a cultural site under municipal protection.
The four ancient wooden pailou, built in the early 20th century, greet visitors beneath the dense shade of Chinese scholar trees.
On the north side of the street stand two famous building complexes.
One is the Confucius Temple, built in 1302 during the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368), specifically to make devotions to this great humanist scholar. The Imperial College, next to it, constructed in 1306, was the highest institution of education and learning throughout the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties (1206-1911).
"The merging of these two institutions into one museum optimizes their historical functions," says Yu Ming, who works at the newly opened museum. "Here both domestic and international visitors can drink in their scholastic ethos."
An atmosphere of reverent learning pervades the museum, particularly its forest of steles bearing the inscriptions of successful candidates for the imperial examinations; Piyong Hall, where Qing emperors personally gave lectures; and painstakingly compiled exhibits.