Fuzhou strives to preserve the history and cultural context of the city

2021-07-22 11:18:20

On July 16th, the extended 44th session of the World Heritage Committee kicked off in Fuzhou City, Fujian Province. 

Strolling through this well-known national famous historical and cultural city with a history of more than 2,200 years, people can find the overall layout of the ancient city of the “Three Hills, Two Pagodas and One Street” is still recognizable. With the buildings from Ming and Qing dynasties scattering here and there, the historic districts enjoy a long-lasting charm, boasting a modern trading port that communicates Chinese and Western cultures. Fuzhou ancient houses left a deep imprint, documenting the history of the city and connecting the culture. 

In 2002, Comrade Xi Jinping, the then Governor of Fujian Province, pointed out in the preface to Fuzhou’s Ancient Houses: “Protecting ancient buildings and cultural relics means preserving history, the cultural context of the city, and the fine traditions of well-known historical and cultural cities.”

In March, General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized during an inspection tour in Fuzhou that protecting traditional neighborhoods, ancient buildings, and cultural relics was to preserve the history and cultural context of the city. We should treat ancient buildings, old houses, and old neighborhoods with love and respect. 

Nowadays, in Fuzhou, more and more people cherish ancient buildings, old houses, and old neighborhoods. 

As the fine records of the glory of Lin’s family in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) goes, “There are five ministers in three generations and eight presented scholars in four generations of Lin’s Family”. At the entrance of Linpu Village, Cangshan District, Fuzhou City, stands a stone archway built in the Ming Dynasty. The upper plaque is engraved with three characters “Shangshuli” (the street of presented scholars), and the back bears the achievements of imperial examinations of the Lin family, recording the cultural heritage of the ancient village. 

In 2020, the Fuzhou-Quanzhou expressway connecting line was about to be expanded and reconstructed. The project initially planned to move this stone archway 20 meters to the northeast. When the project was submitted to the Fuzhou “Multiple Plans Integration” platform for consultation, the cultural relics department made it clear that Linpu Shangshuli Stone Archway should be protected at its original site, recommending that the expressway connecting line be adjusted. 

In the end, the project plan was adjusted, and the original site of the archway was protected. 

The protection of ancient houses has been guaranteed by related regulations that Fuzhou has been advancing for many years. In the early 1990s, Fuzhou has already innovated and explored the “One Seal” protection mechanism—the urban construction projects needed to seek the opinions of the cultural relics department and be sealed by it when the projects were approved. Nowadays, the protection of cultural relics has been included in Fuzhou’s urban and rural planning and the “Multiple Plans Integration” platform as a mandatory project. The mechanism of “prioritizing the protection of cultural relics” in urban construction has become more sophisticated. 

According to a person in charge of Fuzhou Historical and Cultural Famous City Management Committee, Fuzhou has formed a city-wide, full-system, and total-factor protection system including historical and cultural famous city, towns and villages, and historical and cultural districts (scenic areas), etc., covering more than 4700 immovable cultural relics in the city. In this regard, some world heritage research experts commented that Fuzhou has “built a complete cultural heritage protection system”. 

Visiting Fuzhou, one will be deeply impressed by this historical and cultural city’s respect for ancient buildings, old houses, and old neighborhoods. 

In summer, the Shangxiahang Historical and Cultural District of Taijiang District is bustling with tourists. One can see make painted oiled paper umbrellas, learn to make cork carvings, listen to Fujian opera and eat fish balls, etc.

Stepping into the Luo’s Silk and Satin Mansion, a wooden structure in the Qing Dynasty (1636–1912) that was just restored at the beginning of the year, one can find the exquisite wooden components such as bangong (semi-arch), queti (buttress), and geshan (partition door). The long beams and the 13-meter-long wooden frame in the third entrance of the courtyard, in particular, have no single nail for traditional tenon-and-mortise craftsmanship is employed in building the structure. 

The old mansion is “reborn” in a way that its charm remains unchanged because people respect the historical buildings and are in awe of them. 

“The repair work uses raw materials and original crafts as much as possible.” said Chen Mulin, an ancient architectural scholar who participated in the restoration of Luo’s Silk and Satin Mansion. 

Overall protection, minimal intervention, and repairing the old as before... These ideas and experiences for protection and repair drawn from Three Lanes and Seven Alleys have now rejuvenated many historical and cultural districts such as Shangxiahang, Zhuzifang Block, Yantai Mountain. 

Furong Garden of Zhuzifang Block is a classical garden in Fuzhou, where many cultural celebrities have stayed in history. The garden, after careful repairs, serves as the site of the Fujian Shen Shaoan Lacquer Art Museum. Strolling in the Garden, you can not only appreciate the pavilions and rockeries but also savor the charm and exquisite craftsmanship of lacquer artworks. The secluded ancient house is perfectly integrated into the intangible cultural heritage. 

The conditions of the ancient houses are various. Fuzhou’s “embroidery-like” planning and utilization model includes cultural museums, tourist landscapes, and cultural and commercial types. 

In March of this year, Fuzhou introduced a new policy to continue to attract private museums through rent reduction and exemption. The physical space of the ancient houses carries multiple functions such as intangible cultural heritage display, research and education, and foreign exchanges. Three Lanes and Seven Alleys explored the “community museum” model. There are 42 cultural exhibition sites alone within less than 40 hectares of land.

“We advance the conservation and development in parallel, so more and more ancient dwellings are coming to life,” said a staff of the Fuzhou Municipal Bureau of Cultural Relics.