97 former residences of the famous demolished in Beijing


Once Lu Xun’s house

Yesterday’s The Beijing News ran something on the former residences of famous people in the old parts of Beijing.

In a survey that was conducted, 97 famous residences have already been demolished and more are not even recognized. Below is a selective translation of The Beijing News report.

One in four former residences have become multi-residential and scrap yards

by Fu Shasha / TBN

In the old city of Beijing, how many former residences of famous people are there? How are these former residences being used? The Beijing Party committee conducted a survey into the former residences in 2005 in the old city area and found 308, passing the “Beijing famous people’s former residences protection work proposal.” The suggestion act showed that a quarter of the former residences have become a multiple-household compounds (杂院) and are not well protected.

The former residences of famous people in Beijing are mostly from the time of the Opium Wars to the establishment of New China in 1949. The suggestion act shows that out of the 308 former residences, 189 was temporarily not put into a cultural protection project, and half (97) has already been demolished.

According to the municipal investigations, more than one quarter have become multiple-household compounds, and half are being occupied, and the conservation has been quite bad: moving people out and fixing the architecture cost is high, and there isn’t enough capital. Others have become offices for commercial and educational use etc. Because of the lack of management, protection and reparation, most of the former residences have lost their bygone glamor.

The proposal pointed out that because there was a lack of power to make a decision on the famous people and their homes, and the area of the place being protected, some of the valuable residences have been demolished or are in the process of being demolished. There still isn’t a department for the protection and use of the former residences of famous people in Beijing. The places which have been designated as the former residences of famous people are basically rundown and not managed by anyone.

A Dialogue with Kuang Guoliang (匡国良), deputy director for cultural history at the Beijing municipal Party committee. Part of the investigation team into former residences in 2005.

The Beijing News: Was the proposal for “The protection and use for the former residences of famous people” effective?

Kuang Guoliang: There has been progress. After the municipal government passed the proposal, a limited number of former residences have been protected and used.

The Beijing News: Can you give an example?

Kuang: Wenhua hutong in Xicheng district holds the former residence of Li Dazhao. Our research showed that it has become a big multi-residential area, but the house still had its former appearance, and only some small losses made by living. Afterwards, the entire hutong and the house of Li Dazhao was repaired and the residents moved out. Now’s it a Li Dazhao museum. But others, like a place like Song Jun’an (松筠庵) in Xuanwu district, where important historical events happened, but the space still hasn’t been used properly.

The Beijing News: The proposal also suggested that the former home of Liang Sicheng (梁思成) and Lin Weiyin (林徽因) be protected and for a plaque to be put up. But it was still demolished.

Kuang: Mr. Liang has made many accomplishments protecting the old city of Beijing; his former residence should not have been demolished. The proposal suggested that a plaque should be hung on the wall outside, but there is a rule that plaques cannot be put up casually, so we suggested other ways to protect the place. But now it has been demolished, meaning that the relevant department has been passive.

The Beijing News: What is difficult at present about the protection of former residences?

Kuang: From the point of view of use, some of the former residences have become offices, places of teaching, and some are even for government use, so it’s hard to negotiate that they move out, which also goes for the residences that have become multi-residential spaces. Asking people to move, deciding on the way to repair it and finding funding is lacking evidence in policy.

Case study: Lu Xun’s former home

Address: Xicheng district, Badao Wan hutong #11

Description: In August 1919, Lu Xun bought this big courtyard, where he lived for around four years, his The Story of Ah Q and other important literary works were completed here.

Current situation: Inside the courtyard around 50 families live. On June 26th this year, the housing management bureau for Xicheng district gave the order for demolition.

Bricks stacked up, baskets thrown away, next to a small room; sheets, shirts, underwear drying on a clothes line. Inside the courtyard it is very messy, newly built rooms stand close to the old buildings. Two people can walk on the little road, basically has lost the appearance of a courtyard home. Only the rooms at the back still has the old windows.

Zhang Xitai, aged 77 says that the people living here were arranged by their work units after the liberation.

“As compensation for the moving and demolition they are giving use 25,000 per square meter,” says Zhang, “How can we live with 1 million, there are six of us?”

Response: Yesterday, the head-teacher of number 35 high school, Zhu Jianmin said that after the school moves to the new address then the former residence of Lu Xun will become the school’s library. The rooms used by Lu Xun when he was alive will be renovated to look as before, and can be visited by students and anyone else. “Number 11 will be repaired and restored.” The work will start in January.

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