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Created 1-Feb-09
Modified 1-Feb-09
Visitors 584
16 photos
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 area residents.

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
Qianmen (Arrow Tower Gate) stands beyond the northern end of the streetA new Ceremonial Gateway was erected at the street's northern endView towards the south; shops are said to be open by May 2009Recreation of a facade from the 1920s IRecreation of a facade from the 1920s IIRecreation of a facade from the 1920s IIIA facade from a much more contemporary periodTrees planted in stone barrels; a very modern facade in the backEnormous bronce vessels planted with flowers line the streetStreet lighting, always bordering on the extravagant in China, takes the form of dual bird cages hereFlagship front of the Quanjude Beijing Duck restaurant (founded here in 1868)The street at dusk. Someone threw the switch, and the street was totally transformedThe bird cage street lamp, alighting the empty street belowTechnically, this development leaves little to be desiredHighly effective lighting, applied to a new hybrid East-West type facadeA restaurant, one of the few places open for business, at the north-west corner of the street