Saturday, August 07, 2010

拆!Tear it down!

It is frustrating to be a witness to this ongoing tragedy. What will we say to our children -- that we never cared enough? That we were too short-sighted to realize what we were doing?
China heritage chief says building boom is destroying country's heritage

Heritage boss Shan Jixiang says frenetic development is wasting resources and razing valuable city centre districts to make way for 'superficial' skyscrapers
为什么中国不好好地保护中华民族的传统文化?很多城市以为拆掉「旧」的建筑来盖摩天大楼,就是现代化。其实,他们只是在破坏和不断淡化自己的文化。这种行为非但不重视市民的利益,反而带来了很多现代化的弊端。这不是「以人为本」——目的显然不是让市民的生活更方便,否则按照城市规划的原则会选比较 "人本化"的构造——也不重视文化,只重视金钱。

这不只损害到现在生活的人,也对我们的后代很不负责任。破坏文化遗址是一种很严重的罪过,古建筑是整个社会的遗产,我们应该极力保存它。虽然现在有人觉得文化遗址是可以被忽略的,以为自己的行为叫做「现代化」,其实只是一种很烂的「西方化」(不模仿西方好的,只模仿外表而已 ...... 造成一种最低级的同化、也许可以称「水泥化」)。


Sigh. Why does China do this to its own culture? Why must it destroy what is unique about the country -- the very things that ought to be cherished and protected and celebrated -- and replace them with poorly-made imitations of "modernity"? What the Chinese currently think is "modern" will ultimately not stand the test of time -- just ask the folks from other major cities.

As relics, historic sites, and people's homes are torn down with gusto, fueled by dreams of cash (for the developers and for the officials who aid them), such short-sightedness and greed seem not only highly irresponsible, but also a bit selfish. It'd be nice if a culture that loves to cite "five thousand years of continuous civilization" took some pride in the past, and acted as a better custodian of its inheritance.

Future generations will not forgive us if we participate in the destruction of our common heritage -- for it not only belongs to those presently alive, but to our children and their children as well. It's just sad that in this of all places, history and tradition are so easily tossed aside. But I suppose one should not be too surprised, as reverence for the past, for tradition, for anything other than "Money money money!" "Mine mine mine!" have been blotted out.

One day we will realize that, in the end, culture may be the thing that persists and that actually matters.

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I understand that people deserve better living conditions -- but I think accommodations can be found that not only improve people's circumstances, but simultaneously give the proper respect to our history and preserve our heritage, while also keeping communities -- living, breathing, thriving social networks -- intact. For instance, shipping people off into isolated, far-flung apartment blocks, past the fifth ring road on the outskirts of town, is not an appropriate strategy.

We just have to be creative and a little more thoughtful in coming up with solutions that privilege the things we may value aside from money, such as "a connection to the past" or "a sense of community" or "harmony and ecological balance." The main fear is that things in China are moving so rapidly that we won't have time to give due consideration to these other things, and what you end up with is "growth for growth's sake" simply to enrich a few people.

The projects are couched in the language of "development and improving people's lives", but if they actually were intended to "help the people," then shouldn't we see more human-centered projects instead of massive-but-sterile office buildings and extravagant shopping malls? In this dynamic, developers and local officials set up a false dichotomy, denying that alternatives exist to their plans for construction and "development", when in fact there is a rich and diverse set of possibilities -- we just have use human ingenuity to search for them.


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