Blueprints for a Beijing that never was

thomas_h_hahn old beijing blueprints 1.jpg
Blueprints for Beijing, 1954

The image above is from the wonderful photo gallery on Thomas H. Hahn's website. It's from a series of scans of an album of city plans for post-revolutionary Beijing from 1954 by the North China Design Company (华北直属设计公司) of which An Yongyu (安永瑜) was the one of the most prominent city planners.

The design above seems to cover the western part of the city around Fuchengmen (阜成门) and Taipingqiao Street (太平桥大街), and you can see Baitasi (白塔寺) in the northeastern corner of some of the scans.

thomas h hahn old beijing blueprints 2.jpg

The design to the left appears to be for the area just north of the Forbidden City, with the pavilions of Coal Hill or Jingshan to the west of the new construction.

None of the buildings in these plans were ever constructed.

The designs seem to have planned to avoid one of the great cultural crimes of the 1950s that is usually blamed on Mao Zedong: the destruction of Beijing's Ming Dynasty city walls. If the walls had not been flattened, Beijing today would be the world's only capital city with intact medieval city walls.


Another prominent architect at the time, Liang Sicheng (梁思成) also drew up a comprehensive city plan for the new Beijng that would have left the old city walls standing and constructed the modern city to the west.

The image to the right shows a part of Liang's plans for the city. He was appointed Vice-Director of the Beijing City Planning Commission, and drew up his plans in the years after 1949. They were sadly never followed, and Liang's bright career was blighted by constant harrassment and repression from the mid 1950s until his death in 1972, before the end of the Cultural Revolution.

There are further designs and plans for Beijing that were never built in an illustrated article on The China Heritage Quarterly website titled A Beijing That Isn't by Sang Ye and Geremie R. Barmé.

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There are currently 4 Comments for Blueprints for a Beijing that never was.

Comments on Blueprints for a Beijing that never was

If the walls had not been flattened, Beijing today would be the world's only capital city with intact mediaeval city walls.

The best way to preserve Beijing's heritage was NOT to make it the capital. However, if that's true, Beijing would not be the world's only capital city with intact mediaeval city walls neither. I personally don't like the blueprint in the yellow photo. The arrangement of government buildings on the left has a strong suggestion that the new China was just another Chinese dynasty ruling by an emperor (since it imitates Forbidden City's layout). However, even in traditional Chinese thinking, having two axles in a capital is a danger of losing legitimacy. No doubt this plan was rejected.

Anybody interested in the news about Nanjing from last week's Nanfang Zhoumo? I hope you guys can translate the article to help the students to fight for the peace of campus.

good stuff, Jeremy.

Jianying Zha wrote an interesting piece ages ago titled "A City Without Walls" about the failure of Liang Sicheng's vision.

a sad but illustrative story.

This was a wet dream by the antiquaty-loving Westerners and Chinese elite.

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