Need any help with booking?
Home - Holidays - Travel Info - Restoration of Fuzhou history - Three Lanes and Seven Alleys

Restoration of Fuzhou history - Three Lanes and Seven Alleys

Three Lanes Seven Alleys. An historic site surrounded by modernity.
Preservation or restoration these days is a growing concern for many countries that are eager to save almost anything historic in order to leave a legacy of culture for posterity. To restore something to its original state is not only expensive, but very time consuming, demanding research and the skills of artisans to recreate things of the past. In the end however, all of this effort should be rewarded with a feeling of achievement, a feeling of having done something worthwhile, for the greater good of the people.
Saving cultural icons has its problems however. It seems that preserving things for the greater good of a country creates situations where stepping on toes is inevitable. For example, I could quote the Aswan Dam in Egypt, or indeed, the Three Gorges Dam in China. Multitudes of people forced to move on as the tide of those particular changes led to flooded valleys and cities. The Aswan Dam however saw the ancient Egyptian temple of Abu Simbel dismantled brick by brick to be re assembled on higher ground. So, it was saved from the floodwaters, and this ancient building can still be visited today.
These two events are just two of many that could be used as perfect examples of something being done for the greater good of a nation. Of course, if you are someone who is being forced out of your home for the greater good, you might lose sight of the cultural and ethical reasons for your exodus because you are affected in a more personal way.
This is the case in Fuzhou, where opinions are divided about the restoration and preservation of buildings within the Three Lanes Seven Alleys complex. This ancient site going back 400 years, still contains the remnants of Ming buildings with ancient pillars, wood carvings courtyards and roofs. However the properties here have undergone periods of destruction and neglect due to the various changes in Chinese history.
Many Fuzhou residents do not appreciate the restoration. Quoting that the newly restored buildings look fake because of, surprise, surprise! The new timbers being used in construction do not look old. Well, I don't know if people expect to see this restoration carried out using 400 year old timbers, so of course, it looks new. They don't have vision I'm afraid. No idea of how weathering and time will in due course give this older look to the Three Lanes Seven Alleys complex.
There is also the question of having people move out of buildings they call home. People displacement always causes upheaval as families are forced to move out and live elsewhere in what might be a strange community. Moving to a more modern house with amenities, leaving behind a home that has no water supply or toilet, no gas etc, is not seen as a forward move, more of a push into the unknown I think. Added to this is the fact that families might now have to pay rent for the first time, since they just left a property that was gifted to them during the “Cultural Revolution”. So, it is bound to cause unrest.
As a teenager in Glasgow, I underwent exactly the same change when my family had to move out of our old tenement building along with hundreds of others. We were shipped to new locations all over Glasgow. I lost touch with school friends etc who now lived miles away. The meager compensation my parents got for our home was in no way compensatory for the rent my mum and dad now had to pay.
This is progress I'm afraid, literally, moving with the times. But in the case of Three Lanes Seven Alleys, I see this restoration of the past as a forward move. Recreating your cultural past in my opinion is for the greater good. It's just a case of educating people to understand, that historic treasures are in fact maybe more important than you are.
All over the world similar things are happening. No doubt causing concern for others and joy for those who see something to be saved for future generations as a truly worthwhile situation to be involved with.
To put the historical context into perspective, let me say that when the original Three Lanes Seven Alleys was built, there was no USA. The Great Fire of London in 1666 had destroyed much of a London we do not know. That history was lost, and the USA fledgling history was yet to come. But, here in Fuzhou there is an opportunity to grasp something from the past from the ruins. Like a phoenix, Three Lanes Seven Alleys can arise from the ashes, regenerated.
Just have some vision I say. Try to imagine this place in 50 or 100 years. A treasure saved for the greater good. A treasure, which by then, will probably be the sole cultural survivor in a sea of concrete and high rise.
A middle ground has to be reached between government and the people. The alternative might be to just flatten everything and build high rise buildings. But, seriously, do we want Fuzhou looking like New York? I think not, after all Fuzhou is Chinese. I would prefer to see something truly Eastern as opposed to Western in this historic site. Something that says to me, “Welcome to China”!
Written by Dave, Dave is a freelancer photographer and he also presides at WOX editorial Board over cultural and photographic affairs.

SOURCE: WOX cultural