Saturday, April 26, 2008
Sprucing Up the City
Everywhere construction projects are madly going on Beijing.
In the alley behind my office they ripped up a perfectly fine section of concrete slabs and replaced them just as quickly with a jigsaw design of bricks.
The building next to my office also had a renovation, its old school faded yellow exterior replaced with large shiny white tiles. The job was done so quickly that some of the tiles have already started yellowing.
And now the driveway is closed, the concrete dug up and just rubble. One wonders when that will be completed.
One of the temples we visited at Mentougo is also getting a facelift. As shown in the picture, workers were re-tiling the roof with traditional tiles.
While it's nice to see the city getting fixed up, the "manufactured antiques", from the Forbidden City to this local temple seem to lack some soul. Tourists to Beijing have remarked they don't find the Forbidden City interesting, as it doesn't look "old". However, to the Chinese, a new paint job is their idea of preserving the past.
Unfortunately there is a lack of expertise in preserving old buildings, as well as paintings and other ancient artifacts. Experts are elderly themselves and few young people are interested in heritage things. They're more keen on making money, buying a car and apartment than knowing how to keep a wooden building from rotting.
While the Chinese are proud of their culture, many young people don't understand their own government destroyed much of it, especially during the Cultural Revolution. And as the Chinese Communist Party harks back to the past to legitimize its authority, there's still a big hole in people's appreciation of their own history.