Building Adds Color to History

On the Wusi Daijie (May 4th Avenue) to the northeast of the Palace Museum in Beijing, an old four-story building of red bricks can be seen among expensive new office buildings.

Despite its plain appearance, Chinese history is abundant in this building.

Eighty-three years ago, a movement began, marking the beginning of China's contemporary history.

The building, opened to the public in April, has a household name among the Chinese -- honglou -- which means the "red building."

Formerly a campus of Peking University, it witnessed the May 4th Movement in 1919, and the New Culture Movement in the early 20th century.

Presently, the "red building" is the New Culture Movement Museum of China. Exhibitions are now held there on the history of the New Culture Movement, in which Chinese people broke away from the limits of Confucianism and began to accept Darwinism and other Western philosophies.

For a five yuan (60 US cents) entrance fee, visitors can witness the first place in China where people argued about Darwin, Russell, Bernard Shaw and Marx.

Audio guides in English and Japanese will soon be provided to help visitors understand this part of Chinese history, according to museum curator Guo Junying.

The museum plans to regularly stage new exhibitions on art works, cultural relics and books relevant to the New Culture Movement, according to Guo.

The "red building" is among scores of ancient buildings and relics in Beijing that will open to the public before the 2008 Olympics.

Beijing has more than 2 million square meters of ancient buildings which have been listed as cultural relics, but some of them have been damaged, according to Mei Ninghua, chief of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Cultural Relics.

More than 110 ancient buildings in Beijing will have facelifts before 2008, with an investment of 330 million yuan (US$40 million) from the municipal government.

Many of the relics to be restored lie alongside the axis of Beijing, which cuts across the city from the north to the south through the Palace Museum and the Tian'anmen Square.

Meanwhile, the Shichahai area, also known as the Houhai area, which is a favorite place of foreign visitors, is also to have its relics restored.

Among these relics around Shichahai are the former residences of princes and aristocrats of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and the former campus of the FuJen Catholic University.

"By 2008 there will be so many relics open to the public that Beijing residents can expect to enjoy evening walks at an ancient building or garden near their homes," said Mei Ninghua.

(China Daily June 25, 2002)

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