Relics Posing Development Dilemma

A heated debate over whether to protect the former residences of well-known historical figures in Beijing started in late 2000.

The debate was sparked by a commercial construction plan for Jinbao Street in Dongcheng District.

It concerned the former residence of Cai Yanpei (1868-1940), president of Peking University from 1917 to 1919, which was in the way of a proposed development.

The initial plan was to move the house to a new location 380 meters away from its original site.

But experts and ordinary residents rejected this idea, especially after building workers inadvertently damaged the roof of the house while demolishing buildings nearby.

Experts continued to argue that the relocation of the historical house would unavoidably lead to its destruction.

Under mounting pressure from the public, the Beijing municipal government finally decided that Cai's former residence should remain at its original location and be restored to make it suitable for tourism purposes.

The debate has continued as public concern mounts over the protection and preservation of historical houses.

Like many other Chinese cities, Beijing has been troubled with other similar problems.

Vying to develop their economy, cities have frequently found themselves in a dilemma: When historical sites are in the way of urban development, which should be given priority?

Sacrifices of such cultural relics are still frequent nowadays.

(China Daily March 18, 2002)

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