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Buffer zone to safeguard Forbidden City
By Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-06 07:51

Two alternative proposals designating a "buffer zone" to protect the Imperial Palace in Beijing are open for public review now.

Chinese and tourists visit the Forbidden City in Beijing in this file photo. Beijing authorities are planning a buffer zone for the better protection of this world cultural herigage. [newsphoto]
One final proposal will be approved and turned in to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by February of next year.

The move by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Urban Planning and the Beijing Municipal Cultural Relics Bureau is the response to questioning from the World Heritage Committee.

At the 28th session of the body in Suzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province, officials questioned changes about the palace's surroundings.

Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace, also called Forbidden City, which houses the royalty of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987.

However, a buffer zone has not been defined by authorities and was not required by the World Heritage Committee.

In past years, the surroundings of the palace have suffered a lot of bad effects from the improper planning of urban construction and development.

And many traditional lanes and courtyards have been demolished with extremely low compensation paid while modern high-rises have been growing in the area.

A protective buffer is urgently needed to strengthen protection of the culture relics around the palace, yet with the harmony between the palace and its surroundings unspoiled.

Public input on how to achieve that result is being sought so that it can be included in the new plans to be submitted to the World Heritage Committee.

Buffer zone

Both buffer zone proposals have the same core areas, including the "imperial city" zone surrounding the Forbidden City.

With an area of 597 hectares, the zone covers most of the sites where the imperial family once worked, lived, played and offered sacrifices.

Generally, the "imperial city" zone, which includes the Beihai Park, Zhongnanhai, former imperial compounds, the Imperial Ancestral Temple, and many other sites, have been quite well protected.

Moreover, traditional alleys and courtyards still exist in the zone which is located between Chang'an Avenue and Di'anmen Street in Beijing's Xicheng District.

The first proposal suggests the buffer zone only include the "imperial city" area.

Larger area

The second proposal prefers a much larger area, including 1,463 hectares. That would find the zone including the Imperial Palace, the "imperial city" area, and an area where construction must be controlled.

The second scheme makes the buffer zone stretch from Chang'an Avenue to the Northern Second Ring Road.

Once the buffer zone is approved by the UNESCO, it will be put under strict protection, according to an official document released on the website of the Beijing Municipal Cultural Relics Bureau.

People can offer their ideas and comments on the two proposals at the site, which is www.bjww.gov.cn.

Meanwhile, the old lanes and courtyards in the zone generally are forbidden to be demolished.

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