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Demolition project targets historic campus
By Mu Zi (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-02-15 06:33

Hundreds of shabby buildings at China's most prestigious learning establishment are to be torn down to build a major new complex.

The demolition project at the centuries-old Peking University is the largest in its history.

It will target the northeast side of the campus, which were once royal gardens during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

It will make way for the construction of a new international mathematics research centre, a key institute that could help the university to squeeze into the world's top seats of learning.

Some people have raised concern at the continued erosion of the traditional layout of the campus.

The coming project, which will pull down hundreds of old one-storey houses in three adjacent areas, Jingchunyuan, Langrunyuan and Quanzhai, is expected to be completed in January 2007, said university spokesman Zhao Weimin. He said the main body of the new building would rise up by the end of next year.

Zhao said the plan for the project has got the green light both from the State and municipal heritage protection authorities, and was waiting for approval from the Beijing municipal government. He did not reveal the estimated costs for residents' resettlement and the new building.

Although the university has promised many times that the heritage in the three areas would be protected, many people still expressed their concerns that the coming project may destroy the original layout and landscape of the campus.

Liu Zhihong, who once studied in a building in Langrunyuan, said many old buildings on campus had been replaced by new ones over the past few years, and he was nostalgic for the quiet and peaceful days of the past on the old campus.

"Now the last remains of the old campus will soon disappear," Liu said sadly.

The campus of Peking University, which is located at the south of the Old Summer Palace and the east of the existing Summer Palace, was once a famous resort during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties.

Heritage experts say that the three areas are of great historical significance to the campus, which itself is a heritage site under State protection. Jingchunyuan and Langrunyuan were former gardens for princes and princesses. And Quanzhai was built in 1920 by John Leighton Stuart, the first president of Yanjing University, the predecessor of Peking University.

Luo Zhewen, a renowned expert in heritage protection, told the Beijing News that cultural relics must remain intact during the demolition.

He added that the new building should also blend in with neighbouring structures.

(China Daily 02/15/2006 page3)

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