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Heritage hope for city's shikumen

SHANGHAI is to apply to have shikumen (stone-gated) buildings named as one of China's intangible cultural heritages.

Shikumen in the Cite Bourgogne community on Shaanxi Road S., Luwan District, have been chosen as candidates, Ye Qianxun, director of Luwan District Culture Bureau, said yesterday.

Shikumen are a blend of Chinese and Western building styles and expertise, said Zhang Xuemin, deputy director of the National Research Center of Historic Cities of Tongji University.

The district, which has the most examples of shikumen in the city, invited experts to investigate 30 of the most typical shikumen lanes, including the Cite Bourgogne, last December.

The city applied for shikumen to be Shanghai intangible cultural heritage on March 20, and according to Ye, they will "surely" be listed.

Shikumen were initially built in the city in late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) in 1854 by European colonists. They built the houses in foreign settlements to rent them to Chinese refugees.

In the past, up to 80 percent of the city's population lived in this type of house, but today the proportion is much lower.

Typical shikumen buildings are two or three-story houses with a front yard protected by a high brick wall. Each residence is connected and arranged in straight alleys, known as a longtang.

It is a cultural blend of the elements found in Western architecture with traditional Yangtze Chinese architecture and social behavior, said Zhang.

The city will kick off the application after the first public forum in Shanghai of the Expo 2010 on Sunday.

Government officials and scholars will discuss how to protect the Shanghai-style constructions.


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