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September 16, 2013

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Home » Metro » Entertainment and Culture

Call to protect the dilapidated residence of famed scientist

Officials and experts are calling for renewed efforts to  save the former residence of Xu Guangqi, a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) bureaucrat and scientist.

The two-story historic structure called Jiu Jian Ge on No. 228-244 Qiaojia Road in Huangpu District is one of the nine old houses that have survived the vagaries of time.

The house is in a dilapidated state, surrounded by vegetable, meat and fruit stalls, especially during the weekend.

The city’s cultural relics protection authority have placed a bronze plate which  reads, “The former residence of Xu Guangqi,” in front of the house, but that has not deterred people from shying away from hanging clothes.

“Xu’s residence should be well protected since he was the pioneer for cultural exchanges between the east and the west,” said Gu Mingmin, a district’s political adviser.

Burned down

Xu was born here in 1562 when the place had three lines of buildings. The residence was burned down by Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) soldiers at the end of the Ming Dynasty and only the last line — or the nine apartments — survived.

The city’s cultural heritage authority listed the building as a city memorial venue in November 1983. However, it hasn’t been able to do much since then because the city government allocated the place to local residents to deal with  the accommodation problem.

The hat-shaped structure is taller in the middle and shorter on both sides. Its wooden pillars and structures are original materials, Gu said.

“The city government built Guangqi Park, his cemetery and memorial hall in Xujiahui area, but why can’t they renovate his former residence?” Gu asked.

Xu was the first Chinese to introduce advanced European scientific knowledge in the country. He was also a famous scholar-official, mathematician, astronomer and agronomist. He was regarded as a proud son of Shanghai and Xujiahui, meaning the gathering of Xu’s family, was named after him.

In his lifetime, he conducted research in astronomy, calendar-making, water conservation, surveying, mathematics and agronomy.

Not well-protected

The city has more than 1,500 structures that were homes of famous people from home and abroad, but 57 percent of them are not well-protected, said Wang Anshi, an architectural expert and member of the city’s historic building protection committee.

“Since most of the old buildings are wooden structures, they damage easily with many families continuing to live in them for years,” Wang said.

Among the former homes of foreign personalities 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 is listed as a historic structure and is under the protection of the city government and has become a memorial, but many others are yet to be protected,” said Li Kongsan, an official with the Shanghai Cultural Relics Management Commission.



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