Beijing may soon lease historic buildings


As you stroll the alleys of the Forbidden City or climb an escapade on the Great Wall, it’s easy to imagine living like an emperor in the traditional dwellings of Beijing. But have you ever seriously wanted to rent your own little piece of Beijing history? It may be in your future with the publication of a new draft regulation! On September 6, the Beijing municipal government released amendments to the Beijing Historic and Cultural Cities Protection Regulations in public consultation until October 5.

The Regulations present the vision of the Beijing government for the protection and use of the historical and cultural characteristics of the city. The basic philosophy: In order to protect Beijing’s historical and cultural monuments, they should be used and regulated in a unified way. This includes both the systematization of the rental of old buildings and articulated standards of what “traditional” or “historic” means. Here’s what you need to know to either rent this cute Qing Dynasty rug or find out how the new rules will change Beijing’s cityscape.

What do the Regulations define as key areas to be protected?

The regulations apply to large swathes of Beijing’s historic attractions, including:

  • All the sights of the Old Town in the first ring: Specifically, the Old Town refers to the area within the Forbidden City moat and Qing Dynasty ruins, as well as the surrounding Hutong-style architecture .
  • The “Three Mountains and Five Gardens” area: Three Mountains and Five Gardens collectively refer to the imperial palaces, gardens and parks of the western suburbs of Beijing.
  • The great wall
  • The Grand Canal belt

What are these buildings used for?

Historic buildings are intended to be managed by a district historic protection agency. Under these regulations, “management” includes the demolition of illegal buildings in dwellings with a yard. As most of Beijing’s hutongs have been subdivided beyond the traditional floor plan, this covers many neighborhoods. In addition, the government is supposed to renovate, rent and lease historic spaces, respecting traditional styles and prioritizing the satisfaction of basic living needs and the provision of community spaces.

Who is responsible anyway?

These regulations aim, in large part, to address current fragmented and chaotic urban management systems. Under the new rules, municipal, district, ward, township and residents’ committees are supposed to be unified under a single historic protection committee. The protection committee will then organize and distribute responsibilities between districts and wards.

Why does the government care?

The Beijing government appears to be concerned about several issues. First of all, an unattractive or unofficial construction in the city center or historic areas. Second, the unclear ownership of these structures. Given Beijing’s chaotic history with land use and tenure rights in its older neighborhoods, these regulations are clearly intended to clarify who owns what.

Will this impact me?

If implemented, then yes. Over the past three years, the Beijing government has already made efforts to wall up, demolish or reconfigure large-scale Hutong dwellings. These regulations provide more leeway for this process to continue, both by essentially changing the zoning of traditional structures for commercial or residential purposes and by demolishing unofficial structures. These changes would impact visitors and longtime residents by changing the face of Beijing’s neighborhoods.

READ: Who owns the lease anyway? A new approach to rental housing on the way in China

Images: CGTN

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