This past year has seen Beijing mount an urban revitalization initiative that has gotten rid of historically significant architecture, become militant over signs, and rob its trademark hutong neighborhoods of their personality. And in the void left by these departed musty things, Beijing plans to build the only logical replacement: new "streets" built to resemble "old-style" architecture.
At an opening ceremony held on the Shijingshan Amusement Park European Street (shown above), the Beijing Restaurant Association revealed that it will cooperate with several local amusement parks to build "Beijing old-style street experience“ areas as a way to rejuvenate the city's sagging restaurant industry.
The "experience areas" will be built at four amusement parks located on the outskirts of Beijing, said association director Tang Qingshun. They include the Beijing Global Theme Park to the east, Shijingshan Amusement Park to the west, and the Yueduogang Amusement Park to the north in Changping.
A fourth location to the south has yet to be confirmed.
Construction for the Global Theme Park and Yueduogang locations has already begun, with the latter expected to open by the end of the year.
As it were, demolition on the Shijingshan Amusement Park bar street began today. Slated for destruction at the beginning of the month, the six-year-old bar street had been popular with younger tourists despite drawing the ire of local residents. The area is planned to be "greenified" to make it more "livable."
The "Beijing old-style street experience" utilizes the Chinese word laozihao (老字号), a problematic label because in light of the term's continual change.
Originally having the meaning of "old brand names" or "time-honored brands," laozihao was a way to describe century-old Beijing restaurants that have specialized in upholding the city's proud culinary traditions, like the world famous Peking duck.
But although this term only truly applies to an elite group of 40 restaurants, laozihao has since been expanded to describe Beijing's urban areas built to resemble old Chinese architecture, but aren't actually what they appear to be. Laozihao has been used to describe Beijing's nouveau-old Qianmen Boulevard where its decommissioned streetcar was brought out of mothballs to serve tourist passengers.
And now, the new "experience streets" may pull laozihao away from its original meaning further still. One released promotional image (shown above) depicts a mall, suggesting these laozihao streets are not even located outside.
Then again, things left outside do tend to age quicker, so another mall is probably just what we need.
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