(East-West Question) Lu Zhou: Why is the central axis of Beijing a unique witness of Chinese civilization?

  China News Agency, Beijing, February 9th: Why is the central axis of Beijing a unique witness of Chinese civilization?

  ——Interview with Lu Zhou, Director of National Heritage Center of Tsinghua University

  China News Agency reporter Li Shuangnan

  In 2021, the text of Beijing's central axis application will pass the format review of the UNESCO World Heritage Center, marking that Beijing's central axis application has entered a sprint stage.

As a 7.8-kilometer-long combination of huge buildings and urban spaces, the Beijing Central Axis is a rhythmic, harmonious, symbolic and ceremonial central area of ​​the capital that reflects oriental civilization and has been developed over more than 700 years.

In January 2022, the audience visited the exhibition "Reading the City - Exploring Beijing's Central Axis" at the Capital Museum in Beijing.

The exhibition shows the past and present life of Beijing's central axis through chapters such as "Retrospecting the Legend of Past Lives" and "Exploring the Connotation of Great Powers".

At present, Beijing's central axis application is in the sprint stage.

Photo by Liu Huaiyu issued by China News Agency

  What is the difference between the traditional Chinese city building concept embodied by Beijing's central axis and that of the West?

What is the worldwide significance of Beijing's central axis application?

Facing the future, how will China promote the global issue of World Heritage?

How to play a bigger role in heritage protection and sustainable development?

China News Agency's "East and West Questions" column conducted an exclusive interview with Professor Lu Zhou, director of the National Heritage Center of Tsinghua University.

China News Agency reporter: You proposed that the central axis of Beijing embodies the traditional Chinese philosophical thought and cultural spirit of "respecting China" and pursuing the beauty of symmetry.

From the perspective of comparison between China and the West, what is the difference between this and the traditional concept of building a capital in the West?

What is the worldwide significance of Beijing's central axis application?

Lv Zhou:

Beijing's central axis is a unique testimony to Chinese civilization and cultural traditions, which is the basis for its declaration of world heritage.

From the perspective of cities, most ancient Chinese cities appeared as ruling centers, characterized by a clear planning pattern. The central axis of Beijing is the most prominent form of this feature.

In comparison, most cities in the West were formed based on the settlement of commerce and handicrafts, showing the characteristics of free growth, which is a difference between Eastern and Western civilizations.

  The relationship between politics and religion in the West determines the characteristics of its urban layout.

Churches, markets, and city halls play an important role in the city, and the palaces of princes and nobles are only one pole of the city.

In contrast, ancient Chinese cities developed important features characterized by urban hierarchy.

From the beginning of the Western Zhou Dynasty, there was a climax of urban construction, and there was a problem of urban hierarchy at that time.

Therefore, Confucius could not allow arrogant cities to exist, hence the story of "falling into the three capitals".

As the core of the national capital, the central axis of Beijing concentrates the most important buildings in the country and forms the highest architectural complex in China.

In November 2021, Beijing is sunny, and the autumn colors along the central axis are charming.

Beijing's central axis starts from the Bell and Drum Tower in the north, passes through Wanning Bridge, Jingshan, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Zhengyangmen, and reaches Yongdingmen in the south, running through the old city of Beijing from north to south, with a total length of about 7.8 kilometers.

Photo by Niu Yungang issued by China News Agency

  The concept of "respecting China" has always been strongly expressed in traditional Chinese culture, and the central axis of Beijing is also an expression of this concept.

This concept also includes the traditional relationship between man and heaven.

For example, Qin Xianyang City, according to the astrological constellation layout, implies that the city is an imitation of the heaven in the world.

Chinese culture emphasizes the influence of the order of heaven on human beings, and believes that it is necessary to "follow the mandate of heaven" and bring the order of heaven to the human world through the ritual system.

The central axis of Beijing reflects the order relationship from the ideal capital to human society, which is essentially an order based on the Tao of Heaven.

Therefore, "Zhong" is not only the "Zhong" in the geometric sense, but also the "Zhong" in the concept.

  In addition, Beijing's central axis planning is unique in the history of Chinese capital development.

Most of the capitals in the Han and Tang dynasties were centered on palaces, which influenced the urban forms of East Asia such as Nara and Kyoto in Japan.

When Beijing (Dadu) was built in the Yuan Dynasty, the center of the city was first determined, and then the orientation and the location of the palace were determined, forming a building group on the central axis that determined the entire city form.

This type of urban planning is unique in the world.

In July 2021, the side event on "Urban Historic Landscape Protection and Sustainable Development" of the 44th World Heritage Conference will be held in Fuzhou.

Professor Lv Zhou interprets the cultural heritage value of the "Beijing Central Axis", and shows the world the valuable experience that Beijing has made in the overall protection and organic renewal of the old city.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Zhang Xinglong

China News Service reporter: You suggested that the central axis of Beijing is a testimony to the formation of the pattern of the Chinese nation's pluralism and unity.

On the central axis of Beijing, what are the prominent manifestations of "diversity"?

How to promote the formation of "oneness"?

Lv Zhou:

When the Yuan Dynasty built Beijing (Dadu), it attached the capital form of "Zhou Li·Kaogongji", expressing that the emperors of the Yuan Dynasty regarded themselves as the orthodox heirs of Chinese civilization.

It is worth noting that before Yuan Dadu, no capital city was built according to the content of "Zhou Li·Kaogong Ji".

  During the Jiajing period of the Ming Dynasty, the central axis of Beijing formed a scale of 7.8 kilometers today.

The Qing Dynasty further strengthened the influence of the central axis on the urban form. For example, Qianlong built five pavilions in Jingshan, which made the central axis of Beijing more prominent as a city outline.

The Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, the creation, development, and strengthening of the central axis of Beijing, and its respect for the order of the capital city of the Zhou Dynasty three thousand years ago, clearly express the continuation of Chinese civilization over thousands of years.

  The central axis of Beijing also reflects the pluralistic unity of Chinese beliefs.

The Temple of Heaven is dedicated to the God Haotian; the Altar of Xiannong is dedicated to wind, rain, thunder and lightning, famous mountains and rivers, the god of water, the god of agriculture, and the god of age; Qiwang Tower is dedicated to Confucius; The Qin'an Hall of the Forbidden City is dedicated to Emperor Zhenwu; the Vairocana Buddha is dedicated to the Wanchun Pavilion in Jingshan, which also reflects the inclusiveness of traditional Chinese culture.

In August 2020, children visited the exhibition "Reading the City - Exploring the Central Axis of Beijing" at the Beijing Capital Museum to learn about the history of Beijing.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Hou Yu

China News Service: China ran for and was re-elected as a member of the Committee at the 2017 General Assembly of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention.

Looking back on the four-year term from 2018 to 2021, how do you evaluate China's work and role?

Lu Zhou:

This is the fourth time China has been elected.

Over the years, China has become a member of the Committee that is very familiar with World Heritage rules and has extensive experience.

During this term, China has shown a high level of professionalism.

To some extent, China has begun to take a leadership role.

Chinese experts are also more active in participating in and organizing professional activities on World Heritage sites, and the academic value of these activities has been widely praised.

  China has played an increasingly important role in many aspects of World Heritage protection, and has moved from a relatively marginal position to the center of the world stage, which is consistent with China's development.

After China joined the World Heritage Convention in 1985, it has accumulated rich experience through a large number of practices in declaration, protection, management and value expression.

Marked by the "Beijing Documents" adopted at the "International Seminar on the Concept and Practice of Cultural Relics and Architecture Protection in East Asia" held in Beijing in 2007, China has entered a conscious process of constructing cultural relics and historic sites protection ideas with Chinese characteristics, and gradually formed a system based on China's own history. Cultural traditions, protection ideas and principles that conform to the basic principles of international cultural heritage protection, and reflect the characteristics of Chinese cultural relics.

This means that China has begun to consciously express its own cultural ideas through cases and contribute to the world.

China News Service: In 2022, the World Heritage Convention will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Facing the future, how will China promote the global issue of World Heritage?

How to play a bigger role in heritage protection and sustainable development?

Lu Zhou:

From a broad perspective, human consensus has always existed.

For example, the "wow effect" on objects with world heritage value is a consensus. When faced with really good things, people can't help but exclaim "wow". Creative heartfelt feeling.

Although human beings have differences in culture and life, in most cases, through exchanges and dialogues, consensus can be formed, mutual understanding and peace-building can be built.

This is also the meaning of World Heritage.

In July 2021, the "44th World Heritage Conference" held in Fuzhou will hold a video press conference to introduce the relevant situation of the "Fuzhou Declaration" adopted by the conference.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Zhang Xinglong

  China regards the World Heritage Convention not only as a professional platform, but also as a platform for international dialogue and exchanges.

The "Fuzhou Declaration" adopted by the 44th World Heritage Conference last year reflects China's understanding of the future development direction of World Heritage protection.

When it comes to pressing global issues such as climate change and sustainable development, China has its own concerns.

From the perspective of sustainable development, the practices of Lijiang, Pingyao, and Gulangyu have demonstrated vivid experiences such as promoting community participation in conservation, revitalizing culture in conservation, and promoting local sustainable development.

China has transformed from incremental rapid development to stock high-quality development. It is believed that with the accumulation of practice-driven thinking, China's experience will definitely have a greater impact on the world.


Interviewee Profile:

  Lv Zhou, Director of the National Heritage Center of Tsinghua University, Chairman of the Historical and Cultural Conservation and Inheritance Committee of the Science and Technology Commission of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, Vice Chairman of the China Association for the Protection of Monuments and Sites, winner of ICCROM Award, has long been engaged in teaching, research and cultural heritage protection. In practical work, he presided over and led the protection management planning and protection design of a large number of important world heritage and cultural relics protection units, as well as a large number of related work and international training projects related to world heritage, and participated in and organized a number of historical and cultural cities. Protection and renovation work.

Organized the compilation of the "Case Interpretation of the Guidelines for the Protection of Chinese Cultural Relics and Monuments", responsible for drafting the "Guidelines for the Protection of Chinese Cultural Relics and Monuments (Revised in 2015)", the main undertaker of the research project of the Urban and Rural Historical and Cultural Protection and Inheritance System of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.