By Paul Chung
Image credit: Sharon Drummond.
While most Chinese cities are busy constructing skyscrapers, planning new shopping malls and hotels, and razing old (historical) communities to make room for more apartments, Xi’an is betting on a distinctly different urban planning vision.
City leaders in Xi’an recently announced the smooth progress of a major restoration project that will “restore the urban layout of Xi’an back to what it was 2,000 years ago.” The project, which broke ground last year, will be completed in 2020 and cost nearly 60 billion yuan, according to the China Daily.
Xi’an may be best known for its UNESCO World Heritage Terracotta Army site discovered in 1974, but it’s more than just that, says mayor Dong Jun.
The modern day Shaanxi province capital city once served as the cosmopolitan capital of ten dynasties, during which the city was also known as Chang’an, or “perpetual peace.” The ancient city was first built in 194 BC, making it one of the oldest cities in China.
The restoration project’s hallmark is the construction of a 75 square kilometer “special relics” park. The park will not only centralize some of the city’s key relics in one area, but also preserve these historical artifacts that span a two millennia time period.
Xi’an maintains a significant interest in safeguarding its rich history, one obvious reason being the booming tourism industry. The city attracted nearly 80 million tourists last year and the number is expected to continue growing.
For the first time in recent memory, a Chinese city will destroy history in order to (re)create something even more historic. The project will ultimately evict some 100,000 residents, 15,000 of which have already been relocated to other parts of the city.