A "citizens' square" currently under construction in southern Beijing is expected to breathe new life into the "folk art center" of the early 1900s.
Located in the southern part of the city, the "Tianqiao", or "heavenly bridge", was first built during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and became a center of Chinese folk art at the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Historians say folk art performed at Tianqiao in the early 20th century were modern forms of some ancient religious rituals and the prototype of Beijing's culture and entertainment market. The street also gave birth to many artistic forms including ballad singing and acrobatics.
Even today, Tianqiao is still believed to be the epitome of Beijing's culture by writers, artists and overseas Chinese who have come back over the years to seek their ancestral roots.
Construction of the rectangular, 5,000-square-meter citizens' square in Tianqiao started on Dec. 16, 2002, to revive the folk art center.
On the eastern end of the square will stand a bell tower -- a onetime landmark in the area, and on the western end, a fountain and a group of statues. The square will provide a retreat for passersby with its lawns, trees and benches.
It will also include an underground parking lot, a department store featuring Beijing's folk art and a cultural heritage museum.
Tianqiao, covering 18.1 hectares with 200,000 square meters of residential housing, is one of Beijing's old residential areas that need renovation. But priority has been given to the preservation and restoration of its original flavor.
(People’s Daily January 10, 2003)