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Xi'an plan: Protect old walled area
By Ma Lie (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-02 22:37

This capital city of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, which served as the capital of a number of dynasties in Chinese history, has mapped out an ambitious plan to better protect its ancient heritage.

As part of the plan, some 170,000 residents now living in the area surrounded by a rectangular historical wall will be moved outside, according to Lin Lize, an official with the Xi'an Municipal Urban Planning and Development Office.

The number to be moved outside of the area by 2020 would represent 40 per cent of the existing 420,000 population living inside the enclosure.

The Xi'an city wall was built in 1370 in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). With a length of 13.74 kilometres, the wall surrounds an area of nine square kilometres, which has been the centre of commercial activities and life for many centuries.

New districts will be built outside the city wall, protecting the weathered buildings and improving residents' living conditions.

"The office buildings of the municipal government will also be moved from the downtown area surrounded, and new governmental, commercial and residential districts will be formed outside the wall within 16 years,"according to He Hongxing, director of the Xi'an Municipal Urban Planning Bureau.

"Our plan for the future development of Xi'an aims to make the city an international modern metropolis featuring both ancient culture and modern civilization. And the most important task for us is to properly protect the ancient district inside," Lin said.

However, increasing business activities and construction projects are making the district more and more crowded, the official said.

"Modern commercial complexes and high-rise residential buildings are very incongruous with the ancient buildings and damage the graceful bearing of the ancient city," said Xiang De, deputy director of the Xi'an Municipal Cultural Relics and Garden Bureau.

Ancient buildings, ruins and cultural relics cannot be reproduced and when protection for ancient relics contradicts modern development, more attention should be paid to the former, Xiang said.

Xi'an, named Chang'an in ancient time, used to be the most thriving metropolis in the world in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and it served intermittently as the capital of 11 dynasties for 1,068 years since Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century-771 BC).

The long history left Xi'an a large number of ancient relics and buildings, of which many are located inside the ancient city wall, the best-protected wall in China.

In order to better protect the buildings and relics, the local government issued "Regulations for Xi'an Historical and Cultural City Protection'' in 2002, stipulating clearly that the population inside the ancient city wall be moved out progressively. And in 2003, the urban planning bureau proposed that in the district surrounded by the wall no new buildings should be constructed during the planning and renovation period, the director said.

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