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December 1, 2011

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Celebrity homes lack protection

ABOUT 60 percent of former residences of celebrities in Shanghai, especially those of famous foreigners, lack protection.

Many former residences of famous people are not listed as protected historic buildings because the city has no common standard to define whether the householders were "celebrities" or whether the buildings are worth protecting, officials and experts told a forum yesterday.

As a result, many of the buildings are becoming residential houses that are often in poor condition, said Wang Anshi, an architectural expert and member of the city's historic building protection committee.

The city has more than 1,500 buildings that are former residences of famous people from home and abroad, but 57 percent of them are not well-protected, Wang said at a forum about protecting these buildings in Xuhui District, where most of the historic houses stand.

"Since most of the old buildings are wooden structures, they are greatly damaged after many families live in the buildings for years," Wang said.

Among the former homes of foreign celebrities is the house of New Zealand-born writer Rewi Alley in Changning District, where the writer lived for 16 years to write about 20th-century China.

"Alley's residential building has been listed as a historic building under protection by the city government and become a memorial, but most others have yet to be protected," said Li Kongsan, an official with the Shanghai Cultural Relics Management Commission.

The major difficulty is in defining whether a former householder was a "historic celebrity," as there is no common standard, said Zhu Minyan, a deputy director with the culture and history committee of the Shanghai Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

"Some local companies and organizations hung plates in front of some of the buildings whose foreign householder was famous to them to show their historic values, but these plates have no legal powers," Zhu said.

Currently, local officials can only check whether the names of these people can be found in the Cihai, the largest Chinese lexicon, to decide if their residences have historic value, according to Li.

Li said the cultural relics commission had begun devising a standard to define historic residential buildings.


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