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Gulou & Zhonglou

27 Feb

Gulou & Zhonglou

Gǔlóu (鼓楼), the drum tower of Beijing, is situated at the northern end of the central axis of the Inner City on which also the forbidden city is located. Originally built for musical reasons, it was later used to announce the time.

Zhōnglóu (钟楼), the bell tower of Beijing, stands closely behind the drum tower. Together with the drum tower, they provide an overview of central Beijing and before the modern era, they both dominated Beijing’s ancient skyline.

You will not see much locals here, drum and bell towers are very common in almost any city. Lots of tourists though, and us: the temporary locals. Gulou-area has a very chinese feeling, it is one of the last sections of the city retaining any trace of the atmosphere of “old Beijing”.

Disturbing news now in the Chinese press has bar owners around Gulou made feeling nervous. Plans have been announced to “restore” the area around the tower to the style of the Ming and Qing Dynasties and build an underground “Beijing Time Cultural City,” comprising restaurants, parking spaces, and a museum about timekeeping technology.
The development is meant for the entire zone between the Drum and Bell towers and all adjoining hutongs.

The Qianmen redevelopment south of Tiananmen Square illustrates why businesses around Gulou have been unnerved by the news – the heart of Qianmen was demolished and rebuilt in an “ancient style,” with residents moved elsewhere and existing businesses forced out. Given the announcement back in November that the authorities plan to restrict the number of bars and cafes on the nearby Nanluogu Xiang, it seems likely the entire area is set to receive a “facelift.” Many of the shops also appear to have moved out, indicating the wrecking balls may soon be at work there as well. We’ll wait & see…

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