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Calls to Protect Old Residences
Members of Beijing People's Political Consultative Conference (BPPCC) yesterday raised further suggestions on the protection and repair of Beijing's historical relics, which have witnessed large improvements in recent years.

"Protection of old residential houses in Beijing needs to be strengthened as imperial architecture and temples are given priorities in the repair of cultural relics," said Li Yan, a BPPCC member and associate professor of Tsinghua University.

"We need to consider whether it is right that the Beijing municipal government is pulling down residential houses built in the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911) and erecting high buildings on the sites."

Li said the repair and preservation of symbols of cultural interest in the ancient capital was advisable.

Efforts by the associate professor and the Cultural Relics Bureau of Beijing saved an architectural complex in Beijing's Xicheng District -- although the residential areas were removed.

The complex includes the former residence of many famous people in the Ming and Qing dynasties, as well as the Republic of China period (1912-49), according to Li.

"The original imperial city, various temples and old residential houses jointly contribute to Beijing as a world-famous historic and cultural city," Li stressed.

The process of demolishing old houses in Beijing has reportedly slowed down after advice from BPPCC members was adopted.

Li made the remarks yesterday during a site visit by BPPCC members to see how cultural relics were being repaired. They have put forward 175 proposals during the past decade on these historic sites.

Many BPPCC members yesterday advised to continue the process of moving units and residences from cultural relics to ensure they are better protected.

"Their occupancy will do great harm to historic relics, which should be regarded as museums," said Ying Ruocong.

At the Altar of the God of Agriculture, several units including two schools and a factory remain although great efforts have been made to reduce the daily impact of human activities there.

Using an investment of more than 40 million yuan (US$4.8 million), 96 residents and 11 units with an area of nearly 30,000 square meters have been removed since 1999, according to statistics released by the Cultural Relics Bureau.

"More work should be done before 2008, when ceremonies to offer sacrifice to the God of Agriculture in style of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) are expected to be held, as part of a series of tourist activities," said Chen Xu, director of the Beijing Ancient Architecture Museum, which is located at the altar.

(China Daily October 16, 2002)

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