The Zhaojialou site is newly opened.Photo by our reporter An Xudong
In a quiet alley courtyard between Dongzongbu Hutong and Jinbao Street, Zhaojialou, an important historical and cultural site of the May 4th Movement, is hidden. Last Saturday, the renovated Zhaojialou site reopened to the public, and the Zhaojialou Hotel operating here also reopened. A permanent Zhaojialou historical and cultural exhibition will be installed for citizens and tourists to visit. In the future, the Zhaojialou site will continue to serve as a patriotism education base and create a “red landmark” in the hutongs.
Architectural renovation restores historical features
Simple red brick walls, exquisite mountain flower reliefs, golden revolving doors… Today’s Zhaojialou site has changed its dilapidated image and presents the architectural style of the New Culture Movement period.
It is understood that Zhaojialou was originally the residence of Zhao Zhenji, a scholar of Wenyuange during the Longqing period of the Ming Dynasty. It later became the residence of Cao Rulin during the Republic of China. It is famous at home and abroad for the “Burning of Zhaojialou” incident during the May 4th Movement. After the founding of New China, Cao Rulin’s old house was demolished and a new house was built on the original site. In 2002, the Zhaojialou site was opened to the public and operated as the Zhaojialou Hotel.
“The old buildings at the Zhaojialou site are similar to the old residential areas nearby. They are dilapidated and lack characteristics, and their functions cannot meet people’s pursuit of quality of life today.” said Wu Yingshi, president of the Sixth Design Institute of Beijing Construction Academy. The reporter saw from old photos taken before the renovation of the project that this old building, which is more than 40 years old, is overall pale pink in color. The white roof and window frames are seriously aged, and the walls are cracked and peeled off in many places. Many tourists who come here to visit just check in in front of the nameplate inlaid with “The May 4th Movement burned the former site of Zhaojialou” on the east gate of the courtyard, and then leave in a hurry.
How to reshape the appearance of the building, retain the memory of the times, and make people willing to walk into the Zhaojialou site and experience history? The design team looked through the materials and found the earliest architectural description of Zhaojialou. According to relevant records from the Capital Police Department after the fire of Cao’s house, the buildings in the Zhaojialou courtyard are a combination of Chinese and Western styles and are divided into three courtyards: the east courtyard, the west courtyard and the middle courtyard.
While retaining the original main structure of the building, the design team finally determined the design principle of “ancient capital style, urban landmark” based on records and an investigation of the architectural style of the Red Building of Peking University, the memorial site of the May 4th Movement in the same period. After the renovation, the building not only presents distinctive historical features, but also complements the surrounding landscape.
Permanent historical and cultural exhibition in hotel lobby
What is updated is the appearance of the building, but what is retained is the historical memory. Zhao Yonggang, chief architect of the Zhaojialou Hotel renovation project and deputy chief architect of the Sixth Design Institute of Beijing Construction Academy, introduced that the east gate is carved with traditional Chinese cloud patterns and is inlaid with reliefs depicting scenes of the May 4th Movement burning Zhaojialou. The murals have been completely preserved. In addition, an exhibition area has been set up in the lobby of the reopened Zhaojialou Hotel.
Reporters saw at the scene that the exhibition revolved around four themes: tracing the origins of Zhaojialou, the May 4th Movement, burning Zhaojialou, and passing on the fire from generation to generation. Li Dazhao’s office scene is reproduced on site, and visitors can also hear the voices of revolutionary patriots such as Shao Piaoping through ancient telephones. “In addition to exhibitions, we will also develop a series of cultural and creative products to inherit the May Fourth spirit in a new form.” said Lu Juan, general manager of Zhaojialou Hotel.
It is understood that the Zhaojialou Hotel has undergone a comprehensive upgrade after renovation. The 191 rooms in the hotel have been re-optimized and designed to be brighter and more comfortable, and a new lobby lounge and specialty restaurant have been added.
Open the courtyard wall and integrate into the hutong space
Once upon a time, the Zhaojialou site had such high walls that even some residents living nearby did not know the full picture of the building. After renovation, the southern courtyard wall of the Zhaojialou site was completely opened.
“The door of my house is much wider now, and the cultural relics are right when I open the door!” said Ms. Guan, who lives in the former Zhaojialou Hutong. Now everyone can not only enjoy the beautiful scenery of the front yard of the Zhaojialou ruins, but also go for a walk inside. Basking in the sun on public seats.
Zhao Yonggang said that before designing the renovation plan, they found that the urban streets on the south side of the Zhaojialou site lacked activity space, which was not conducive to displaying the architectural image and making it difficult to interact with the public. After renovation, this closed and isolated courtyard will be open and shared, adding green and vitality to the public space of the hutong, and will also attract more people to enter Zhaojialou and learn about its history. (Reporter Lu Yang)