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Stop excessive commercialization of historical streets

Updated: 2015-07-28 17:12

Stop excessive commercialization of historical streets

Lanterns of a tea house add some light and warmth to a cold winter night in Shichahai, a historic scenic area in Beijing's Xicheng district, on Jan 20, 2015. [Photo by Huang Xiaobing/Asianewsphoto]

Beijing's Shichahai and Nanluoguxiang failed to be listed as national historic and cultural blocks due to excessive commercialization, say authorities. A moderate degree of commercialization will help realize sustainable development while excessive commercialization will threaten further tourism and affect development, says Zheng Yuchuan, a commentator on Netease website. Here are some excerpts:

Undoubtedly, moderate exploitation of historical relics is necessary, for it not only restores the original appearance of historical and cultural blocks, but also creates cash flow for the block protection. It also provides for tourists who want to understand the historical and cultural relics a place to buy food, rest, and purchase souvenirs.

However, in reality, when refurbishing ancient streets and architecture, many decision-makers focus mainly on the potential profits from tourism, and are unconcerned with historic preservation. For example, when reproducing an ancient street, designers will in most cases be told to map out an area for booths selling handicrafts, snacks or souvenirs, but not areas to display local historical culture. At first glance, it may be attractive to tourists. But after a while, it would feel indistinguishable from other commercial streets. Meanwhile, to make scenes more inviting to modern tastes, decision-makers may order developers to be creative, which implies that they can change the original layouts and decorations as they see fit.

Restoring ancient streets and architecture with no regard to their original historical appearance is a kind of cultural sabotage disguised as protection. So it is a significant move that acknowledges the problem of over-commercialization for Beijing to rule out Nanluoguxiang and Shichahai from the list of Chinese famous historical and cultural blocks.

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