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Shanghai Tries to Stay Original
As Shanghai impresses the world as a fastpaced metropolis under the gaze of shining neon lights, its residents are looking back at the city's relatively short history.

The Shanghai municipal government is doing the same and has pledged to protect 236 groups of old buildings which are located in 11 zones and include 398 individual houses.

Together, the buildings "lined up Shanghai's style with their elegance," according to sources at the city's real estate bureau.

Visitors to the early 20th century buildings are impressed by their delicate European or traditional Chinese styling and the knowledge that many of the buildings witnessed important historical events.

The 236 groups of buildings are now used as residential properties, shops, offices, public facilities, factories or religious sites.

Among those to be protected is the Shangfang Garden in the Xuhui District.

The garden boasts more than 70 villas of Spanish flavor, which were built when part of the city was colonized.

An organization has been founded to protect the old buildings, under an agreement between the municipal cultural relics administration, urban planning and real estate administration authorities.

The organization has designated an area of protection for each building.

Harmony between the old buildings and newer ones is stressed in the city's urban planning.

In Shanghai, magnificent new buildings fit in well with the old ones built many decades before, such as the famous Wingon Plaza, the French Club, the Garden Hotel and the Grand Shanghai Cinema.

The old buildings play an important part in the development of the city's tourism industry and the local government is locating historical documents to find out the events associated with the buildings, according to sources with the local tourism bureau.

For instance, the local government of the Luwan District has discovered that there are three old buildings with links to Dr Sun Yat-sen in the district, in addition to former residences of great scholar Liu Yazi, Peking Opera artist Mei Lanfang and patriotic general Zhang Xueliang.

Luwan District authorities have so far licensed 19 buildings. It is also promoting a tourist route covering all of the structures.

Some of the buildings have been developed into neighborhood art centers.

For instance, the century-old stage in the Yuyuan Garden is regularly visited by members of the Peking Opera and Kunqu Opera troupes for performances, and the ancient Confucius Temple has traditional stringed and woodwind ensembles.

In the old Sanshan Guild and Dajingge Ancient Building, 29 exhibitions have been held in the past two years, attracting up to 110,000 people.

"To be a metropolis, Shanghai must have buildings of its own style and the old buildings are important in the establishment of our modern style," an official from the local real estate authority said.

(China Daily August 6, 2002)

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Laws Called for Protecting Old Houses
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