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Beijng's Qianmen Street A Revival of Old Dreams


A local senior citizen looks on the computer-simulated mock-up of how Beijing's time-honored Qianmen Street will look after its current renovation. Redevelopment work in Qianmen Street kicked off in May 9, 2007.

Renovation work on shops along Beijing's time-honored Qianmen Street kicked off in May 9, 2007. Beijing's Qianmen Street, which is currently under redevelopment, will restore its streetscape to that of the early twentieth century, through use of historical photos, becoming the second pedestrian thoroughfare in the Chinese capital, after Wangfujing Street, the downtown shopping district. China News Service reports that the new Qianmen Street will not be modeled after its state in the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911), as its designers had anticipated, but into the form of the old Qianmen Street in 1920s-1930s, a time period that left numerous historical photos - by which architects can study in forming the new street. Wang Shiren, a chief designer of the new Qianmen Street and a renowned architect, said the final plan was achieved through a series of studies, discussions and revisions. "The Ming and Qing Dynasties' Qianmen Street was burnt down to ashes in 1900 when the Allied Forces of the Eight Powers ransacked Beijing. Physically, there is nothing left for us to retrieve. The final plan is based on historical photos, and we intend to form a new Qianmen Street in the mould of the 1920s to 1930s." After redevelopment, the new Qianmen Street will stretch from the southern end of Tian'anmen Square to the Zhushikou Street, measuring 845m in length. A trolley car, familiar to Beijing's senior citizens, will return to the street and become the only transportation vehicle on the pedestrian thoroughfare. An underground parking lot will also be built to tackle the problem of parking spaces in the Qianmen area. Time-honored shops in the area, Qianmen Street's business card, will receive the greatest amount of protection. With its latticework of horizontal alleys, the north-south Qianmen Street prospered as a commercial strip as early as the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368). By the time of Emperor Jiajing, the 12th Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) emperor, the street was dotted with guild halls built by different localities, to provide housing to citizens intending to take the imperial exams. Qianmen Street became even more prosperous in the early years of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) with the development of activities such as lantern fairs, theaters and teahouses. Places like the Guanghe Theater -- today threatened with demolition -- and the Quanjude roast duck restaurant are part of Beijing's history. The massive redevelopment of Qianmen Street, which began in late 2002, is part of Beijing's efforts to refurbish old city areas ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games.

(Source:CRIENGLISH.com, 2007-05-21)