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Historic Architecture Threatened Through Misuse

Beijing has around 3,500 historical buildings, 1,000 of which are under protection at district, city and state level. However, 60 percent of them may be in danger from their current occupants' lack of understanding or care.

Hao Dongchen, head of the capital's Preservation of Cultural and Historical Relics Inspection and Enforcement Team, said they can often be damaged through the use of electrical appliances and wiring.

The vulnerable sites include six around the Summer Place, covering 40,000 sq m. The Temple of Heaven fares even worse with as much as 3.74 square kilometers occupied by schools, shops, factories and even a radio station.

Vice Director of the Summer Palace, Gao Dawei, said buildings like the Infantry Commander-in-Chief's Office and the Archive Office are being damaged through their use as Central Party Schools dormitories.

Station 582, affiliated to the Ministry of Radio, Film and Television, is based in one corner of the Temple of Heaven's outer enclosure.

Yao An, deputy head of the park said, "The Temple of Heaven was a place used to communicate between people and the Heaven in the old days." Now the view is marred by thirteen clusters of antennae. "Some foreign travelers take pictures when they see them because they think it's a military base!" he said.

The radio station has recently built new rooms to be let or used as dormitories, and 25 new places of residence there have even been registered with local authorities.

Station 582 located to the site in 1970 with permission from the Beijing Construction Bureau. Since the 1990s the park has approached them on numerous occasions to ask them to move, but to no avail.

Yao submitted a report to Beijing Municipal Bureau of Park in 1993 when the station sought the park's approval for new antennas. The bureau wrote to the Beijing Municipal Administration Commission, who agreed to ask the station to move away. But after several negotiations with the station their efforts are still to bear fruit.

The park again urged the station to relocate in 1998 when it applied for World Cultural Heritage site status, yet they refused on the grounds that the radio station was still in operation.

Dagaoxuan Palace has had similar problems and Jia Kailin, vice director of the Culture and History Commission of Beijing's People's Political Consultative Conference, said extensive damage can be seen throughout.

The palace was built in 1542 and according to Jin Hongkui, Deputy Director of the Palace Museum, before 1949 it was administered by the Forbidden City, to which it is connected. In 1956 the Forbidden City registered its right to run the palace again, gaining certification from Beijing's Real Estate Administration Bureau.

Liu Binsen, member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, submitted motions in 1998 and 2000 asking for the palace to be given back. Zheng Xiaoxie and Luo Zhewen, both renowned experts, also submitted a proposal for its return in November 2000.

The occupiers have agreed but have negotiated to receive a 5,000 sq m site within the Second Ring Road in return plus a sizeable sum for relocation costs. As city center realty is highly desirable, Luo says the overall price of moving them will be sky-high.

The occupation of these sites is a legacy of the early days of the People's Republic, when many offices were set up in culturally significant locations. Since most moved in with the express approval of the authorities it is especially hard to get them to relocate now.

Xie Ninggao, director of World Cultural Relics Research at Peking University, and He Zhuoxin, director of the Culture and History Commission of Beijing People's Political Consultative Conference, suggest that the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China should take responsibility to work with the general offices of the State Council and the Central Military Commission as well as Beijing municipality to find solutions to these problems.

(China.org.cn by Unisumoon October 25, 2004)

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