How to protect Beijing as an ancient city, or is it necessary to protect it at all, has been under debate by officials and experts for over 60 years, during which fancy buildings mushroomed in the 62.5-square-kilometer area, while gray brick residential houses collapsed before bulldozers in a facelift frenzy, along with the memories they carried down through generations.
According to a report by the official People’s Daily in January2007, about 500 Hutongs still survived, in comparison to the more than 3,000 in early 1980s.
Local officials marked out 25 areas in the inner city in 2002 where traditional houses and alleys will be preserved, and later expanded to 33, accounting for 29 percent of the inner city.
Although real estate developers built some courtyard-styled houses, the sale goes very slow.
“Those ‘fake cultural heritages’ are too costly for local residents,” said Xu Pingfang, 77-year-old renowned professor of archaeology and director of the China Archaeological Society, “while Beijingers are forced out and the houses are purchased by new-riches, Beijing is losing its flavor.”