Foundation laid for Fuzhou to preserve its culture

A bird’s eye view of Sanfang Qixiang in downtown Fuzhou, Fujian Province. [Photo/Xinhua]

While thousands of visitors daily explore the ancient lanes and mansions of Sanfang Qixiang, a popular attraction in Fuzhou, Fujian province, few are aware of the efforts made to protect the area by the city’s rulers. .

Home to one of the country’s largest preserved Old Town districts, the area once had more than 200 examples of ancient architecture and has been hailed as a “museum” for buildings from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties. (1644-1911) .

However, before the 1990s, many mansions were subdivided into squatter houses. Some were about to be demolished as authorities in Fuzhou accelerated property development.

In 1991, when Xi Jinping was secretary of the Chinese Communist Party’s municipal committee in Fuzhou, the city’s top official, he led local efforts to protect and renovate old buildings and heritage sites.

Wu Yujian, head of the Fuzhou Cultural Heritage Administration, said a series of important measures taken by Xi during his stay in the city laid the foundation for the preservation of Sanfang Qixiang.

The importance of a meeting chaired by Xi was stressed by Wu. The meeting adopted a policy document on protecting the residences of historical figures and other heritage sites in Sanfang Qixiang and elsewhere in Fuzhou.

“Mr. Xi called for the restoration of many cultural heritage sites that will later become the city’s iconic buildings and major tourist attractions,” Wu said.

An ancient building under threat was the birthplace of Lin Zexu, a scholar, official and Fuzhou native who led the fight against opium smuggling during the Qing Dynasty.

The building was protected from developers after Xi chaired a meeting in 1996 that decided to form a special leadership group to investigate the site’s renovation. The city government has allocated funding of 12 million yuan to compensate developers.

The former residence of Lin Juemin, a Qing Dynasty revolutionary, was also protected and renovated after a meeting chaired by Xi.

Wu said Xi’s tenure in Fuzhou reflected his lifelong interest in cultural heritage protection, and he paved the way for his successors in the city to continue this work.

In March last year, Xi visited Sanfang Qixiang on an inspection trip to Fujian. He said ensuring the proper protection of old quarters, buildings and cultural relics preserves a city’s history and cultural traditions.

He also reiterated the need to value and respect old buildings and neighborhoods.

Wu said Xi has laid a solid foundation for cultural heritage protection efforts in Fuzhou, which now has 4,783 cultural heritage sites, including 25 under national protection.

The city hosted the 44th session of the World Heritage Committee in July last year, an occasion widely seen as recognition of Fuzhou’s remarkable achievements in protecting cultural heritage.

In a congratulatory message to the session, Xi said China, while continuing to strengthen its ability to safeguard heritage, stands ready to support the global cause of such protection and jointly safeguard cultural treasures and natural to mankind.

During the session, China pledged to provide 100 scholarships to students from developing countries, especially those from African countries and small island states, to develop their expertise in the conservation and management of sites in the World Heritage over the next five years.

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