Protecting our heritage
Updated: 2012-01-30 07:58
The former house of Liang Sicheng (1901-1972) and Lin Huiyin (1904-1955), a famous couple of modern Chinese architects, in Dongcheng district of Beijing was demolished last week.
Had it not been for the efforts of volunteers and NGOs, the house would have been demolished in 2009.
The developer started nibbling at the rooms in the wings with authorization from the Dongcheng District Housing Authority in May 2010 and demolition proceeded on and off till December 2011, when the house was listed by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage as an "immovable cultural relic".
Even so, the house was still being dismantled one month later. Unbeknownst to the Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage, which apparently had no idea until media reported the demolition at the weekend. The Dongcheng District Cultural Commission responded by claiming that the developer was merely conducting "maintainability demolition" on the house and it would be rebuilt.
But the rebuilding is artificial and superficial and shows no regard for history. According to the law on the protection of cultural relics, the developer should be fined 50,000-500,000 yuan ($7,937-79,370).
Cultural relics not only define Chinese cultural identity, but also provide spiritual nutrition for the modern world.
There is no excuse for the administrations of city planning and housing not to cooperate with cultural authorities to keep the cultural costs of urbanization to a minimum.
There are plenty of experiences and painful lessons in the developed countries for Chinese authorities to draw on. Urbanization should never be a deduction but an addition when it comes to a country's historical heritage. It is urgent that the law on protecting cultural relics is amended and strictly enforced to prevent similar acts in the future.