An international forum entitled Architectural Art -- Protection of Human Relics and Attention to Historical and Cultural Cities, Towns and Villages was held in Beijing early in June. Issues discussed during its three-day meeting include how to protect the World Heritage sites in China continuously and effectively and the planning of the first group of historical and cultural towns.
China's ancient cities are unique in architectural style and have great historical and cultural values. Xie Chensheng, former adviser to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage and honorary president of the Chinese Society of Cultural Relics, believes that by being listed as World Cultural Heritage sites, historical sites and cultural relics can get better protection.
He took the Imperial City in Beijing as an example. Although many modern architectures have been built, the main sites, such as the Forbidden City, the Coal Hill, the lakes of Shichahai and Beihai, the street of Nanchizi and the numerous mansions of princes, are well-protected. In addition, the Imperial Temple of Emperors is to be repaired this year. If the Imperial City in Beijing, plus the White Pagoda Temple, can apply for being listed as World Cultural Heritage sites in one package, they have better chance to win.
Xie said China now has 101 historical and cultural cities, which represent the nation's glorious culture. Unfortunately, only a few of these cities, such as Lijiang of Yunnan Province, Pingyao of Shanxi Province and Hancheng of Shaanxi Province, have been well preserved; others have been damaged more or less. In some cities, destruction took place even after the State Council announced them as national historical and cultural cities. Anyang of Henan Province, for example, tore down large patches of its ancient buildings to give room for modern construction after the State Council designated the city a historical and cultural city.
According to Zheng Xiaoxie, vice chairman of the National Specialists Committee for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Cities, not many local governments have recognized the importance to protect ancient cities. Many of them don't know how to handle properly the relationships between tourism and the protection of cultural relics. Even worse, some of the cities are tapping their tourism resources for economic benefits only.
The Beijing municipal government has been working hard on protecting the city's cultural relics. It has taken two most effective measures: compiling the General Plan for the City of Beijing and working out the Regulations on the Protection of the Historical and Cultural City.
According to the "General Plan," the city planning shall follow the principle of "two axes, two zones and multiple centers." The two axes are the Chang'an Boulevard running from east to west, crossing the city center, and the thoroughfare of the Zhongzhou Road goes from south to north. Divided by them, the west part of Beijing will be retained as an ecological area while the east part being developed into business area.
Constructions of various functioning facilities should be scattered in the outskirts. A plan like this will greatly benefit the protection of the Imperial City. It also offers favorable conditions for the Imperial City to apply for the World Cultural Heritage as a package.
The Forbidden City, which is the center of the Imperial City, has already been listed as a World Cultural Heritage site. It is possible that it is included in the new application.
Experts hold that many Chinese ancient cities should have applied for entry on the World Cultural Heritage list. In recent years, China has strengthened its protection of ancient cities. At the same time, many valuable ancient cities have been found. Phoenix in Hunan Province, for example, is a well-protected old town matching the honor of World Cultural Heritage.
(China.org.cn by Chen Lin, June 5, 2004)