New life infused into Beijing's past

By XIN WEN | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-07-10 07:18
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The center features an old German typewriter used in the Republic of China era (1911-49). WANG JING/CHINA DAILY

Jin said that enterprises seeking bank loans to restore cultural relics often face barriers because it is hard to assess the relics' value. As a result, Xicheng pioneered a financing project for cultural relic architecture, enabling Tai'an Li to become the first place in China to receive low-interest-rate loans to adapt the buildings for reuse.

Hu Xuejing, manager of Xuanfang Dahou Investment Management Co, a State-owned company responsible for restoring Tai'an Li, said the business invested 20 million yuan ($2.8 million) on the adaptive reuse of the compound. Thanks to the credit financing project introduced by the Xicheng authorities, the district bank provided another 10 million yuan in low-interest-rate loans to revamp public areas at the venue.

"The return of its original appearance was a fundamental principle for the company in restoring the Tai'an Li shikumen compound," Hu said. "But consideration should also be given to the way in which these cultural relics are used after being restored.

"If the ancient buildings are turned into a new type of public service space to match the functions of urban development, they will take on new meanings, instead of remaining as lifeless architecture."

Work finished

In December, restoration and refurbishment work was completed on all buildings in the compound, with it being transformed into the Tai'an Li Cultural and Arts Center, which officially opened in April.

The exquisite shikumen structure stands out on a street corner in the former Xiangchang New District. A narrow alley about 70 meters long separates the six buildings into two rows, with lush greenery and decorative stones lining the route. Cafes, a small tavern, and a restaurant that is set to open offer modern amenities.

In the first building to the right of the alleyway, a wooden spiral staircase leads to a new space on the second floor, which is divided into three sections — an art exhibition area, a yoga studio, and a feminist-themed bookstore.

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