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Guangzhou destroys two heritage buildings from the 1940s, despite protests

Posted: 06/14/2013 10:00 am

Two buildings on Guangzhou’s Shishu Road which represent a rare form of architecture were leveled on the morning of June 11 in spite of locals having written to the government to protest, Xinhua reports. Both were built during the Republic of China period in the 1940s.

The demolition crew in action, courtesy of Xinhua

The buildings were said by experts to represent a form of architecture that mixed the ancient with the modern and is extremely rare. The type of architecture was even described as being as important to China’s cultural heritage as the panda.

Historically significant buildings being demolished in the name of development is, of course, nothing new.

Philip Pan described the process in his 2008 book, Out of Mao’s Shadow:

In reality, though, local officials often approved projects and sold land-use rights to developers without going through the trouble of buying or seizing them from homeowners first. Officials then conspired with developers to pressure owners to give up their land. Developers often hired thugs to intimidate residents while police looked the other way. And local authorities sometimes cut off water, electricity, or heat to the holdouts. If necessary, the government intervened on behalf of developers and ordered a forced eviction on questionable legal grounds. Altogether, between 1991 and 2003, more than half a million families in Beijing were evicted by developers.

This has given rise to the coinage of the term “chaina,” which sounds like the English word “China” but means “Where should we demolish next?”


Celebrating 100 years of dynasty-free rule in China

Posted: 03/28/2011 9:49 am

Depending on what side of the border you’re on, 2011 marks either the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China or the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty. There is no doubt that China’s last dynasty, the Qing, did come to a whimpering end in 1911 thanks to a gang of revolutionaries led by Dr Sun Yat-sen who believed China needed to modernize and introduce democracy. But after creating the Republic of China with a capital in Nanjing, the ROC itself was driven out of the Chinese Mainland by the Great Helsman, Mao Zedong, in 1949. So today, the ROC lives on in Taiwan, while China is governed by Chairman Mao’s successors.

Thus, the political sensitivity surrounding this year. Taiwan (and many overseas Chinese) see it as the founding of the Republic of China which has developed into a full-fledged democracy on the island formerly known as Formosa. Mainland Chinese see it in the first step towards their liberation under the Communist Party; that Sun Yat-sen believed China needed to be free of a feudal and unjust society. Thus, if subscribing to this point of view, Sun’s revolution was beginning of what we know today in China. Both sides certainly have their merits. In fact, the virtue of Sun Yat-sen is one of the only things the ROC and PRC can agree on.

Regardless, there are a couple of interesting exhibitions underway to take in some of this history. The Exhibition of the 100th Anniversary of 1911 Revolution is now underway at the Guangzhou Museum inside Yuexiu Park. It features a lot of the clothes worn by Dr. Sun and will be open until June 12.

The second exhibit is across the border in Hong Kong. It is at the Hong Kong Museum of History:

Celebrating the centenary of the 1911 Revolution, this exhibition showcases over 150 exhibits from Hubei Provincial Museum and other collections as well as historical images, videos and maps to illustrate this milestone in China’s modern history and also highlight the immense contribution that Hong Kong made to this revolution.

It will continue until May 16. Admission is HK$10 for adults, $5 for students, and free on Wednesdays if you can make it there mid-week.

If you are interested in the history of China, both of these exhibits would be well worth checking out.

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