Historical Beijing Quarter ‘To Be Destroyed’
Over the last 20 years mile after mile of Beijing’s “hutongs”, or alleyways, have been bulldozed to make way for gleaming skyscrapers and apartment complexes as the city engages in a whole-scale, and at times brutal, program of modernisation.
The plan is allied to an ambitious 20-year project to create an “underground city” by digging out three square miles of northeastern Beijing to create a network of shopping malls, car parks and even a three mile underground road.
The area around the Drum and Bell Towers has been a vibrant part of Beijing since the days of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and in recent years has reinvented itself as a faintly bohemian cultural quarter with chic boutique shops, small galleries, restaurants and courtyard hotels.
Conservationists point, with horror, to previous cultural “restoration” attempts by the Beijing government such as the Qianmen area around Tiananmen Square which is widely derided for its soulless, Disney-style rendering of Old Beijing.