The Central Axis of Beijing

Central axis protection highlights local heritage

Updated: Jun 23, 2022 China Daily Print
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Beijing's central axis stretches 7.8 kilometers from north to south, connecting numerous renowned historical spots such as the Forbidden City. [Photo by Song Yu/For China Daily]

Beijing held more than 60 themed activities across the city to celebrate the Cultural and Natural Heritage Day, which falls on the second Saturday of June every year.

Focusing on the protection and preservation of cultural relics, these activities included online exhibitions, performances and lectures.

In collaboration with Beijing Radio and Television Station, the Beijing Cultural Heritage Bureau invited 11 academics to share their experiences and insights into the protection of cultural heritage.

A highlight of the celebrations, the 2022 Beijing Central Axis Cultural Heritage Inheritance and Innovation Competition also kicked off on June 11, as the city is striving to get its central axis included into the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The event has set up five categories of entrants and will last through to September. It is designed to collect attractive campaign proposals, cultural products, and photos related to the central axis and recruit a batch of volunteers for the application, according to the organizers.

"We have made some improvements based on the first session last year to further raise the public's awareness of the central axis and encourage more people to participate in the protection of Beijing's old city areas," said Mei Song, director of the competition's expert committee.

The central axis' history can be traced back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). It stretches 7.8 kilometers from north to south, connecting numerous renowned historical spots such as the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven.

Lyu Zhou, director of the National Heritage Center at Tsinghua University, said the central axis changes as the city evolves. "It's a mix of history and modernity, reflecting how Chinese civilization has been passed down through the generations for thousands of years," he said.

Preparation for the central axis to be recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site started in 2011.

Over the past five years, municipal authorities have initiated more than 100 renovation projects for cultural relics on the central axis and ramped up efforts in resident relocation and environmental cleanup of the old city areas.

Shouhuang Palace in Jingshan Park reopened its doors in 2018 after a four-year restoration. In addition, the Bell Tower in Dongcheng district finished its yearlong refurbishment and resumed operation in January.

At the end of May, the city issued a regulation on protecting the cultural heritage of the central axis, which is scheduled to take effect on October 1.

Establishing a legislative system is not only a necessary step in the application process, but demonstrates the city's responsibility and determination to protect cultural heritage, said Qin Hongling, a professor from Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture.

Lyu said their preparation work is now at the home stretch. The central axis' application text is pending approval from the National Cultural Heritage Administration and the formal application will be submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre early next year, he said.

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