China salutes its architectural heritage

The Bund in Shanghai.
The Bund in Shanghai.PHOTO: CHINA DAILY/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK
The Great Hall of the People:  The famous Beijing landmark made it to a new national list of Chinese architectural masterpieces built in the past century.
The Great Hall of the People: The famous Beijing landmark made it to a new national list of Chinese architectural masterpieces built in the past century.PHOTO: AFP

List contains 98 sites built in 20th century, with many also rich in historical significance

BEIJING• • Ninety-eight sites have been inscribed into a new national list of Chinese architectural masterpieces built in the past century.

The first edition of the 20th-Century Chinese Architectural Heritage List, drafted by the Chinese Society of Cultural Relics and the Architectural Society of China, was released in Beijing on Thursday.

Famous Beijing landmarks such as the Great Hall of the People and the Monument to the People's Heroes ranked high on the list.

It included renowned Western- style architecture from the early 20th century, such as the Bund in Shanghai; the Russian-style Saint Sofia Cathedral in Harbin, Heilongjiang; and Tianjin's Marco Polo Square, a former Italian community.

College campuses including old buildings at Tsinghua, Nanjing and Wuhan universities were also on the list.

Mr Shan Jixiang, head of the Chinese Society of Cultural Relics, said many of the selected structures tell abundant stories and are witnesses to key events in the nation's history.

He added that the new list will make people aware of the need to preserve more recent architectural sites for future generations.

  • SOME CHINESE ARCHITECTURAL MASTERPIECES

  • WESTERN-STYLE ARCHITECTURE

    • The Bund in Shanghai

    • The Russian-style Saint Sofia Cathedral in Harbin, Heilongjiang

    • Tianjin's Marco Polo Square, a former Italian community

  • FAMOUS BEIJING LANDMARKS

    • The Monument to the People's Heroes

    • The Great Hall of the People

  • COLLEGE CAMPUSES

    • Tsinghua University

    • Nanjing University

    • Wuhan University

    PHOTOS: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

"When restoring them, they should be treated as cultural heritage sites rather than general construction. Otherwise, historical information will be irreversibly lost," he said.

"Masterpieces of the 20th century prove that Chinese architects' spirit and techniques are well inherited. And they deserve to be passed on to modern times."

The release of the new architectural heritage list comes months after the State Council, or China's Cabinet, issued guidelines that effectively banned the construction of "bizarre" and "odd-shaped" buildings that are devoid of character or cultural heritage in the country.

CULTURAL SENSITIVITY

When restoring them, they should be treated as cultural heritage sites rather than general construction. Otherwise, historical information will be irreversibly lost.

MR SHAN JIXIANG, head of the Chinese Society of Cultural Relics, on many of the selected structures being witnesses to key events in the nation's history.

Mr Shan, who is an architect himself, criticised the way China has become a playground for foreign architects. The maverick designs of foreign architects have resulted in strange-looking buildings such as the CCTV's Beijing headquarters, nicknamed "Big Pants", and an exhibition centre in the shape of a tea pot in Wuxi, Jiangsu province.

Mr Ma Guoxin, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, highlighted the lack of legal oversight to protect the heritage of the listed sites, saying: "There is a void in legislation concerning these sites, and a tailored rule is urgently needed to avoid further damage."

Last week, the botched restoration of a 700-year-old section of the Great Wall in Liaoning province triggered outrage after reports showed that an 8km stretch had been turned into a smooth, flat- topped path.

"Such brutal treatment of the monuments left behind by our ancestors! How is it that people with low levels of cultural awareness can take on leadership positions?" lamented one user of China's Twitter-like Weibo platform.

 

Though the restoration was completed in 2014, photos of the work went viral only in recent days, with Chinese state media quick to pile on scorn for what a CCTV commentary called the "destructive repair".

The State Administration of Cultural Heritage has sent an investigation team to the site and pledged to punish those found responsible for damaging the Great Wall's image.

CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2016, with the headline 'China salutes its architectural heritage'. Print Edition | Subscribe