Called Qianmen Da Jie (Qianmen Street), this new development forms part of the traditional North-South axis of old Beijing. What is old about it, however, is debatable. It was not restored to its Yuan or Ming-dynasty origins because, as in the case of Prince Gong's Palace, historical photographs were employed, a medium which pushes Qianmen Street's history back only into the 1920s and 30s. The architectural styles are therefore of considerable diversity, with hybrid facades blending Eastern and Western designs dominating. Without any glaring shop windows and merchandise on display yet, this street is a very charming recreation of a time gone by fast and hard. Note that bold advertisement boards, so ubiquitous all over China, are absent from this streetscape. The one-track trolley is cute in a tourist sense, but really only a tiny remnant of the original circular system running alongside the old city walls of the Republican period.
Intended to open for the Beijing Olympics in August 2008, the 845 m long street is now slated to be fully furnished and functional as a pedestrian shopping area by May 2009. Not only the delay of about one year is costly, but, as Michael Meyer attests in his book "The Last Days of Old Beijing - Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed
", its construction was a highly controversial enterprise, involving the demolition of almost entire (ancient) neighborhoods and the (oftentimes forced) relocation of thousands of long-time Dazhalan
Visited on a very cold January afternoon. When the lights came on, the street was totally transformed. Technically speaking, this project is extremely well executed.
Thomas H. Hahn, Ithaca, NY