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20th century heritage list salutes Chinese structures

Wang Kaihao
Updated: Sep 30,2016 8:11 AM     China Daily

Tourists visit the Bund in Shanghai on Sept 27. It is among 98 sites on the 20th-Century Chinese Architectural Heritage List.[Photo/China Daily]

A national list of architectural masterpieces was released in Beijing on Sept 29 to remind people of disappearing heritage.

Ninety-eight sites were inscribed into the first edition of the 20th-Century Chinese Architectural Heritage List, which was drafted by the Chinese Society of Cultural Relics and the Architectural Society of China.

The Great Hall of the People

Landmark architecture of New China, like the Great Hall of the People and the Monument to the People’s Heroes, ranked high on the list.

Renowned Western-style architecture from the early 20th century was also included, 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 host another major type of architecture. Old buildings at Tsinghua University, Nanjing University and Wuhan University are among the examples.

“Many of the included structures have abundant stories and are witnesses of historical vicissitude, and they are thus alive,” said Shan Jixiang, head of the Chinese Society of Cultural Relics. “However, more historical communities from the 20th century outside the list are endangered.”

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

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

As an architect, Shan criticized the way China became a playground for foreign designers’ maverick blueprints in the first decade of the 21st century.

“Masterpieces of the 20th century prove that Chinese architects’ spirit and techniques are well inherited,” he said. “And they deserve to be passed on to modern times.”

“The list shows that a new type has been added into categories of immovable cultural heritage sites,” said Gu Yucai, deputy director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage. “This meets common practice in the rest of world.”

Still, Ma Guoxin, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, pointed to the lack of sufficient legal oversight to protect the heritage of the last century.

“There is a void in legislation concerning these sites, and a tailored rule is urgently needed to avoid further sabotage,” Ma said.

The Bund

Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum

Saint Sophia Cathedral in Harbin

Five Great Avenues

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