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Hutong Protection

Beijing is an ancient capital city with a history of over 800 years. Its historical culture consists of imperial and folk cultures. The imperial culture is mainly displayed by constructions such as the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, while the folk culture of Beijing can be found in the hutongs and courtyards. Beijing hutongs and courtyards have the same historical and cultural values as the Forbidden City, and they are an inseparable part of Beijing's history.
Beijing hutongs are now endangered. Many hutongs are very dilapidated, and the courtyards in them are badly in need of repair, and covered with rubbish. In recent 30 years, as the modern city developed, many huge building have been built around the city, with the old and compact hutongs seemingly out of place. Therefore, hutongs and courtyards were torn down, and acres of old streets have disappeared. On average 50 Hutongs are disappearing annually. When the hutongs and courtyards are destroyed, the traditional hutong culture and Beijing characters are also destroyed.
Hutongs are the lanes between rows of courtyards are hutongs, running into larger street. The hutongs conduct the rainwater from courtyards, and act as corridors for aeration and light. They are also access for fire control, security and defence. Now, the reconstruction and development of hutongs also reflect the changes of the city. Hutongs record and enrich the history of Beijing City, but their disappearance has also destroyed the integrity of Beijing and its culture.
Therefore, the protection and preservation of hutongs and courtyards has become necessary. The former mayor of Athens, Madame Dora Bakoyannis pointed out "it is necessary to combine the construction and development of the city with the protection and preservation of hutongs, and more hutongs should be preserved, since they make great sense for Beijing, and even for China." British Prince Charles also hopes the hutongs can be preserved, and has declared that his foundation would offer help if needed.
Domestically, more and more Chinese have realized that hutongs are an integral part of Beijing, so they appeal for the protection and preservation of Beijing's hutongs and courtyards. A group of photographers active among the existing hutongs in Beijing take pictures of the simple and elegant hutongs and courtyards. They intend to call for more support for the protection of the hutongs, telling the beauty of hutongs and the elegance of the courtyards with vivid and real pictures. Some sophomore students of a high school in Beijing have petitioned the government. In the letter they declared, "When it is necessary to build a museum or hold a photograph show about hutongs and courtyards, it is definitely too late! We don't want to be the last witnesses of these this Beijing culture, and we will try our best to protect them".
How to protect Beijing's hutong? Experts raised three key points on the reconstructions and maintenance of Beijing hutongs: the first is that the government should make use the rule of law to make safeguards and policies in advance; the second, experts should draw up professional according to the different situation of each hutong; the third, it is important to improve the living condition of the people in Beijing hutongs.
It is good to see that the government has begun to make a great effort to protect Beijing hutongs and to preserve the characteristics of the ancient city. In recent years, many protection programs have been formulated and put into practice. The living condition of the courtyards in Beijing hutongs is greatly improved, and the old styles of the hutong are conserved. In 2008, the Beijing Government declared that they would start a CNY 1 billion special fund for the maintenance and reconstruction of Beijing hutongs and courtyards. At present, some special hutong tours have been developed in some well-preserved hutongs, where visitors can either walk or take old-style tricycles to travel around the hutongs and visit ordinary families in to experience the local life in Beijing.

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