Beijingers urged to push for world culture honor

The view from the top of the ancient Drum Tower shows part of the central axis that runs through Beijing. The municipal government is applying for world cultural heritage status for the important corridor. Zou Hong / China Daily

BEIJING – The capital is calling on its residents to show their support for the city’s application for world cultural heritage status to be bestowed on its “central axis”.

 The central axis, which runs north-to-south through the heart of Beijing, extends 7.8 kilometers, from Yongdingmen to what was Di’anmen.

 Often referred to as a “dragon vein”, a number of important royal buildings were built along the route, such as the world-famous Forbidden City and the Drum Tower and Bell Tower.

 People living in communities along the central axis are being encouraged to show their support and become engaged in the application, said Yu Ping, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage.

 For example, they can take part in a series of activities, including signing a petition of support, collecting audio materials and offering personal stories that can best record and recall the history of the street. The effort will take place between May 20 and June 10, Yu said.

 “The application for World Cultural Heritage status will be the theme of this year’s upcoming World Cultural Heritage Day on June 11 and it will be carried out throughout the year,” Yu said.

 Because support from the majority of residents is needed for the application to be approved, the authority intends to get people’s feedback and engagement, said Wang Yuwei, director of the Beijing cultural heritage administration’s relic protection department. The authority now has an expert team of 16 renowned historians and scholars giving suggestions.

 The two major things they are focusing on is strengthening the protection of the historic buildings and cultural relics along the central axis and improving surrounding buildings that are not coherent with the historical atmosphere, Wang said.

 For example, Dagaoxuan Palace and Guande Palace, two important complexes in the Jingshan Park area that once were used by a military unit and a youth activity center, have been emptied of the people who used them and renovated, Wang said.

 But he also noted that questions remain concerning whether to rebuild Di’anmen, the only historic gate missing from the central axis. He said the subject is still a hot topic among scholars.

 The city is speeding up its preparations for the application, with the schedule calling for the drawing up of the Central Axis Cultural Relics Protection Agenda by the end of June or July. The authority hopes its application will be included in the National Preparation List for World Cultural Heritage as a candidate in September. The application could be submitted to UNESCO early next year.

 “Taking into consideration that the judges usually need more than a year to evaluate the candidates, it could take until at least 2013 for the central axis to be recognized, if everything goes smoothly,” Wang said.

 Zhao Shu, a senior researcher with the Beijing Research Institute of Culture and History, said the axis is a crucial part of the city’s history.

 “Since the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), construction of the city has been strictly following the central axis. That’s how Beijing turns out to be so unique and symmetrical in terms of its layout,” Zhao said.

 Netizen Fossy10 wrote on his micro blog on that the central axis is an important part of a city that was once awash with history.

 “The whole city of Beijing would have had potential to apply for World Cultural Heritage status, like some other cities in the world, such as Venice, but, sadly, only the central axis is left now with historic value, which is why we should truly cherish it.”

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