Uncertain Future for Architectural Treasures

Breakneck development and urbanization campaigns often threaten the relics reflecting China’s ancient architectural tradition. An article from Caixin takes us to the northern province of Shanxi, a “treasure trove of rare buildings as well as the epitome of cultural neglect”, to explain how commercial interests can sometimes aid in preserving imperiled structures of cultural significance, and to survey the differing opinions on how best to protect China’s architectural heritage:

Indeed, business is booming for buyers, movers, rehabilitators and sellers of old buildings. No data is available, but anecdotal evidence and business reports suggest increasing numbers of cultural significant structures in underdeveloped parts of the country are being sold and moved to wealthy cities. Other buildings, like the Confucian temple in Zhongyang, are being moved by developers so hungry for land that they’re willing to pay for a delicate relocation.

Many buildings cannot be moved legally. Under Chinese regulations, the central government can designate certain cultural structures state-owned and immovable. But ownership of anything not on list is subject to local government control.

Zhongyang’s director of cultural tourism, Qiao Jinping, told Caixin the apartment building developer and local officials coordinated a “relocation-protection-style” project that combined support for economic growth with historic preservation.

“The developer bought the land (from the government ) and paid a large sum of money that helped us resolve the funding problem,” Qiao said. “Rather than let the Confucian temple collapse, we elected to have it be reborn elsewhere.”

[...]Business interests that jumped on the historic preservation bandwagon, meanwhile, have found ways to leap barriers posed by local government financial constraints.

The solution to Zhongyang’s Confucian temple conundrum, for example, balanced new property development and preserving the old for future tourism growth.

For more on historic design in peril, historical preservation and architecture, see “Razing History” and ”Old Building Restoration Taking Hold in China“, via CDT.