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Stricter policies to protect traditional dwellings

Updated: Oct 29,2014 8:45 AM     China Daily

China is to issue stricter policies on traditional dwellings in order to protect cultural heritage, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development said on Oct 28 during the release of the results of the first national census of such buildings.

The census, conducted in 2012, identified as many as 15,000 traditional dwellings in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, of which 2,555 have been listed in the national collection and given strict protection.

The traditional dwellings have also been placed into 599 different categories.

“All of the listed dwellings will have their own development plan, which should be reviewed by the four ministries involved with heritage and rural affairs by the end of 2015 to guarantee their protection and development,” said Zhao Hui, head of village affairs at the ministry.

Each of them will receive an average amount of 3 million yuan ($490,000) from the central government to protect the dwellings and cultural heritage in those villages, and 327 of the listed dwellings have already received the special funds.

“While promoting development to satisfy the needs of residents in the dwellings, the authority will focus on reining in excessive exploitation,” Zhao said, adding that many traditional dwellings have witnessed inappropriate exploitation recently to boost tourism and the economy.

In July, a heavy rainstorm hit Fenghuang, an ancient township and a major tourism destination in Hunan province, affecting 196,000 people and submerging 4,000 shops in the township.

Many experts said the excessive exploitation of the ancient township and lack of a scientific development plan were the major reasons for the huge economic loss, according to a report from Xinhua News Agency.

Many tourists voiced their disappointment when touring the ancient township, saying they saw a small place with crowded shops selling goods just the same as in many other ethnic places.

Cao Pu, 28, who went to Fenghuang in 2009, said she would never return, even though her hometown of Changsha, in Hunan province, is quite close because she did not gain the sense of cultural heritage that is supposed to be there.

To rein in excessive development of traditional dwellings, the ministry will issue stricter policies and regulations, forbidding demolition, even if the property becomes empty, or the transformation of a residential street into a completely commercial street.

“In fact, there are several successful cases of these dwellings combining the sound development in tourism and protection,” said Luo Deyin of the traditional dwellings census group at the ministry.

Dipu, a remote village in Tonglu county of Hangzhou city, Zhejiang province, rebuilt a discarded cowshed into coffee rooms, which has turned into a popular tourist attraction.

“But now we still have few experts to give scientific suggestions for dwelling development and tackle the large number of cases of excessive exploitation,” said Luo, the group leader and also an associate professor in architecture in Tsinghua University.