One of the biggest commercial tourism projects in China in the recent past has been the rebuilding of the Daming Palace in China’s ancient capital of Xi’an. The original palace was built during the Tang Dynasty – when Xi’an was known as Chang’an – but was demolished.
The 1.2 billion yuan (US$180 million) “Daming Palace National Heritage Park” involved the demolition of a large swathe of urban space in which 100,000 residents were displaced before their homes were destroyed. The remaining ruins of the Danfeng Gate were also demolished. The vast space is now home to military re-enactments and a miniature model of the old palace.
The project aims to attract the millions of travelers who visit Xi’an every year, primarily to see the Terracotta Warriors – which were not destroyed and then rebuilt. It opened on October 1 of this year.
Kitschy? Yes. But the huge investment in the rebuilding of Daming Palace underscores how the people involved in the development of Chinese cities are beginning to look at history and heritage differently.
An article about the Daming Palace project and cultural heritage in The National touched upon something we’ve been noticing in recent travels around China. The story quotes Leo Yatming Sin , a professor in the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at The Chinese University of Hong Kong:
“Sometimes they have sacrificed cultural heritage for development … Now many government officials have noticed cultural heritage is important for attracting tourists, [so] now they start thinking about preserving.”
In other words, officials have realized that historical sites don’t stand in the way of economic development, they enhance it and give a city the kind of character that cannot be manufactured by modern property developers.
As we recently noted in the case of Beijing’s Gulou area, many irresponsible real estate projects that would have been approved in the past are now being rejected or downsized significantly.
Over the last two centuries, China lost countless important historical sites and artifacts, but there is still much left that is worth saving. We are heartened to see that the people who decide the fate of China’s heritage are beginning to appreciate the irreplaceable value of history.
Daming Palace Image: UPI